I read Ahab’s Wife at an impressionable age and it filled me with a deep hatred of whales (unfair to them, I know) and a fierce desire to be a lighthouse keeper. Despite many things keeping me from a serious pursuit of such an endeavor (I keep moving further and further away from the ocean, the aforementioned hatred of whales, my reliance on the internet…) I will always jump at the chance to read something lighthouse adjacent.
The Light Between Oceans starts off strong- a quiet and traumatized man returns from the front and finds solace on a remote island keeping the lighthouse. He finds a vivacious young woman while on shore leave who is determined to be a part of his world, and they quickly make one of two. Unfortunately, things fall apart when The Light Between Oceans begins attempting to grow that number from two to three.
What was a quiet and strong character study veers wildly into mid-200s Lifetime movie territory. I will spare you the details, but this novel makes the very clear statement that women exist to be mothers, and that anyone who is unable to attain this role is a hysterical harpy. As soon as babies come into and leave the lives of the women within this story they can focus on nothing else, and all of the other characters can do is comment on the absolute despair of what it must be like to be a woman without a baby! The women of this story become animals- they make wild choices, act in irrational ways, and put the lives at others at stake all for the mandated role of being a mother. Perhaps it comes from mostly personal reasons, but I cannot stand to see people defined by their ability to carry life. Some people can, some people cannot, and their ability to do so has nothing to do with their ability to be strong, caring, important, and respected people. This book trivializes the trials of those who struggle with the ability, the want, and or the need to physically have a child.