The Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman. (Scribner, 2012)

Tom is looking for work after his stint in the army in World War I. He believes the lonely job of lighthouse keeper at Janus Rock, a tiny island off the southwestern tip of Australia, will be the perfect place for him, and allow him time and space to recover from the trauma of all the killing - three years between vacations to the mainland. He marries Isabel and takes her to Janus Rock. After several years and three miscarriages, a living baby washes up on shore in a boat with a dead man. Isabel, having lost her third child just two weeks earlier, immediately bonds with the baby and persuades her husband to omit the incident from the lighthouse log - a federal crime - setting in motion the ensuing events in the story.

I'm going to say this is a must-read. It is part romance, part travelogue, part history, part tragedy, and all love story. One of the back jacket blurbs observes, "you stop hoping the characters will make different choices and find you can only watch, transfixed, as every conceivable choice becomes an impossible one." And that about sums it up.

Steadman never puts a foot wrong in building the characters and plot, and creating climaxes at several points within her novel. I got so engrossed in the characters and their stories, I couldn't put the book down. I thoroughly enjoyed the author's detailed descriptions of the island, the light, the protocols, the thoughts and interactions of her characters. I particularly admire the way she leads readers to a conclusion, and then adds a single detail that throws into question everything you thought you knew about the moral dilemma so far. This is an admirable and memorable first novel that will make a great book-group title, because there is so much in it - both from the plot and the craft of the author's writing - to discuss.