M. L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia. Following a successful career as an intellectual property lawyer in both Australia and London, she left the law to pursue her love of writing. Her stories have been published in various online magazines and print anthologies, including Desperate Remedies, a collection by six authors from the US and UK. This is her first novel. She now lives in London, but returns to Australia regularly.
In Stedman's compelling, heartrending debut novel-infused with the symbol of the lighthouse as guidance and shelter-quiet, thoughtful Tom returns home to Australia after World War I and seeks refuge as a lighthouse keeper. Isabelle, a high-spirited young woman who is ruled by emotion, works her way into Tom's heart and joins him at his remote outpost. Although they yearn for a family, after three years and three lost babies, the light in Izzy's eyes has dimmed. Then, inexplicably, a small boat washes ashore, bearing a dead man and a tiny but healthy infant. Is this the answer to Tom and Izzy's fervent prayers? They must quickly choose whether to keep the baby as their own or to report it to the authorities. Years later, in another, faraway lighthouse, the story circles around to a satisfying conclusion. VERDICT Stedman's engrossing, emotionally driven novel sensitively treats the issue of loss and how we learn to live with its aftermath. Fans of Anita Shreve or Elizabeth Berg will enjoy being swept up in this novel. [See Prepub Alert, 2/20/12.]-Susanne Wells, MLS, Indianapolis (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In Stedman's deftly crafted debut, Tom Sherbourne, seeking constancy after the horrors of WWI, takes a lighthouse keeper's post on an Australian island, and calls for Isabel, a young woman he met on his travels, to join him there as his wife. In peaceful isolation, their love grows. But four years on the island and several miscarriages bring Isabel's seemingly boundless spirit to the brink, and leave Tom feeling helpless until a boat washes ashore with a dead man and a living child. Isabel convinces herself-and Tom-that the baby is a gift from God. After two years of maternal bliss for Isabel and alternating waves of joy and guilt for Tom, the family, back on the mainland, is confronted with the mother of their child, very much alive. Stedman grounds what could be a far-fetched premise, setting the stage beautifully to allow for a heart-wrenching moral dilemma to play out, making evident that "Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled up that you can't tell which is which until you've shot 'em both, and then it's too late." Most impressive is the subtle yet profound maturation of Isabel and Tom as characters. Agent: Susan Armstrong, Conville & Walsh. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.