Reminiscent, I suppose, of The Forgotten Garden
this book club favorite tells the story of Tom, a lighthouse keeper in 1920s Australia, his wife Isabel, and the infant they find in the middle of a storm and decide to raise as their own. Isabel has suffered at least three miscarriages and sees the child as a gift from God. Tom, a former military man, knows that it's wrong but hesitantly goes along with his wife.
This book's gotten a lot of buzz - it was one of the Goodreads books of the year, the reserve line at the library was insanely long, and it has a solid 4+ score here. But wow, what a disappointment.
This is M.L. Stedman's first novel, and it really shows. The story had some promise, if not a great deal of originality, but I thought the structuring dissolved any sense of tension I might have felt. The prologue tells how Tom and Isabel find the baby one night, after the rowboat carrying her and her father's body washes up on shore. The next one hundred pages backtracks to show how Tom and Isabel got to this moment, detailing their unusual courtship and wedding, the miscarriages and Isabel's despondency. The thing is, I didn't feel anything about these events because I already know what it's building to and there's no sense of urgency.
There's some clumsy writing here, too. A lot of plot points are revealed through dialogue and the result is a whole lot of telling-not-showing. Even small, minor things are shown by a character verbally responding to it instead of allowing the reader to see it.
Then there's the shifting verb tenses. Stedman shifted from "Tom did" to "Tom does" within the same page -- and it wasn't consistent with the flashbacky aspects of the story the way you might expect. It took me out of the story and I ended up abandoning the book about halfway through.