This novel is a tragic story studying the choices we make and how they can have long-lasting repercussions.
In the early 1900s, Tom Sherbourne takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the Australian coast. The island is very isolated, and there are few visitors. The supply boat comes once a season.
Tom marries Isabel, a young and devoted wife. Their extreme physical isolation from the rest of the world means that they depend on each other for everything.
After Isabel suffers two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat washes up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Isobel makes a critical decision: she wants to keep this baby! After all, who would know?
Tom does not approve, but Isabel has been so wracked with depression over losing her other children that he finally acquiesces. Tom never stops regretting the decision, however.
This decision leads to a heartbreaking series of events that will change their lives forever. His guilt increases over the years until he has to decide whether to tell the authorities. The story was depressing, but so well written that I really wanted to find out what happened.
What prices would Tom and Isabel pay for the decision to keep someone else’s baby? They are not bad people at all; they just make serious lapses in judgment.
I found the final chapters convincing in tying up the storyline. The story is poetically written but it is overwhelmingly sad.