The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz

15802906 The Edge of the Earth: A Novel
by Christina Schwarz

After reading The Light Between Oceans a few months back, I was eager to read another novel about life in a lighthouse when I came across The Edge of the Earth.  Unfortunately, the latter did not live up to the former.

The Edge of the Earth tells of Trudy, a young, pampered woman from a well-to-do family in late nineteenth-century Wisconsin who wants to break free of the future laid out neatly ahead of her by her parents.  Her future husband has been picked out for her, her future house, and even the flowers that will be planted in her future house’s garden.  Trudy wants adventure; she wants to make her own decisions and experience a life well beyond the suffocating safety of convention.

When Oskar, a cousin of Trudy’s intended husband, comes along, he quickly sweeps her off her feet with his disdain for convention and his appetite for adventure.  Best of all, he sees in Trudy what nobody else seems to want to see: an ability to grab life by the horns and take it for a ride.

Leaving everyone behind and disappointed in the rash choices Trudy has made, the young couple travel to distant Point Lucia, an isolated and desolate part of the California coast, to live and work as assistant Lighthouse Keepers.  The Point Lucia Lighthouse is an actual lighthouse, though it is known as the Point Sur Lighthouse.  Once settled in their new home, Trudy, not surprisingly, realizes that her new husband, whom she saw before as adventurous and unconventional, now seems to be exactly what she had been warned of: flighty, noncommittal, and full of harebrained ideas.

Point Lucia seems to hold some dark secrets, and eventually Trudy begins a quest to unravel these mysteries.  And thus, her real adventure begins.

In all honesty, despite a promising premise, I found the story a little dry and boring.  Although Trudy is painted as a restless young woman itching to make her way in the world, in actuality she comes off as spoiled and pampered and not someone who actually seems likely to break the chains of propriety.  So I found her character to be somewhat unbelievable.  The real action in the story doesn’t begin until about two-thirds of the way through the book; once I reached that point, it kept me turning pages, but it was a bit of a chore to reach that point.  In the end, the author seemed in a hurry to wrap things up neatly, so all in all, I was left feeling unsatisfied.

My take:  eh.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel
by M.L. Stedman

What can grief drive a person to do?  How far can love and loyalty carry us?  Is the line between right and wrong always distinct?  Does an innocent child’s right to happiness trump a parent’s right to reclaim what was lost?

These are just some of the questions raised in this beautiful debut novel.  Set in Australia in the 1920s, Tom Sherbourne lives an isolated life as Lightkeeper of the Janus Rock Lighthouse.  Driven to this remote job in an effort to obliterate the ghosts of WWI that haunt him, he carries out his job with the utmost care and efficiency.  When he falls in love with Isabel Graysmark while on the mainland, he brings his beautiful, young bride to his beloved island where they live an idyllic but isolated life together – going for months at a stretch without other human contact.  Their happiness is eroded, however, with first two miscarriages and then a stillbirth.

One day, only a couple weeks after their son is stillborn, a small boat washes up on the island.  Inside are a dead man and an infant – hardly more than a newborn, and very much alive.  It’s as if God himself has sent this baby to replace the babies lost , and Isabel is convinced that she is being called to claim and care for this child.  Tom, on the other hand, charged as Lightkeeper with keeping detailed, accurate records of all happenings on the island, is wary.  The boat’s appearance and its contents must be reported.  His beloved wife, however, convinces him that the baby is meant to be with them, and he cannot bring himself to take from her, in her grief over their own lost babies, this apparent gift.

Not surprisingly, however, the choice they make has far-reaching implications, powerful enough to tear lives apart.

Ultimately, this is a story about grief, love, loyalty, and the human heart’s capacity for love and forgiveness.  Provocative and compelling, life doesn’t always serve up happy endings.

I was drawn in from the first page, and felt as if my heart were being ripped out during several parts.  Gorgeously written, the people and settings spring to life from the pages.  This is one of those stories that will stay with me for a long time, I think.

I received an advance copy; it will be available in bookstores next month.  I won’t be surprised to see this gain a vast readership, and I look forward to more work by this author.