Welcome back! What did you think of Part 2? My stomach churns with every page, but I can’t put this book down. I am absolutely devouring it!
After reading the flash-forward section that opens the novel, I doubt anyone was surprised when Tom and Isabel decided to keep the baby. Still, I expected Tom to put up more of a fight when Isabel suggested they raise Lucy as their own. Tom knew his moral obligation and was slavishly devoted to following rules, but he couldn’t deprive Isabel of a daughter and subject Lucy to the uncertainty of the foster-care system. Tom reasoned that “sometimes [rules] were what stood between man and savagery, between man and monsters…. But always, it would come down to the simple question: could he deprive Isabel of this baby?… Could it really be right to drag [the baby] away from a woman who adored her, to some lottery of Fate?” I understand Tom here, but I also think he is rationalizing his silence. Tom prided himself on his strong sense of right and wrong, yet he allowed himself to be persuaded that the child was an orphan, though they had no proof. On the other hand, that assumption was not an unreasonable one. Isabel justified her actions with her belief that this was God’s plan, but I expected Tom, who did not think in such terms, to treat Lucy’s blood family with more delicacy. After all, even if the baby’s parents were deceased, that didn’t mean she had no family who would love and miss her. Were you surprised by Tom? Do you think he gave in to Isabel too easily?
Tom wanted to come clean immediately after learning that Lucy’s birth mother, Hannah, was alive, but Isabel wouldn’t hear of it. To me, this was an even more impossible choice than their original decision to keep Lucy. Tom and Isabel justified keeping Lucy by convincing themselves that not only were they not hurting anyone, they were doing the right thing by raising an orphan in a loving, nurturing environment. After Hannah’s appearance in their lives, though, they could no longer pretend that they were doing an unqualified good, yet they also couldn’t turn themselves in. Legal troubles aside, I can’t imagine them willingly parting with the child they have raised as their own. At Lucy’s baptism, who did you find yourself siding with: Tom, who couldn’t live with their lie, or Isabel, who wouldn’t consider telling the truth?
Tormented as Tom was, Isabel shut down all of his attempts to talk about their role in separating Lucy from her birth family. Though he couldn’t bring himself to part with Lucy, Tom also couldn’t follow Isabel’s example and shut Lucy’s blood parents out of his mind. With no other recourse, Tom left the letters that ultimately resulted in Tom and Isabel being found out. Were you angry with Tom for leaving the secret notes for Hannah?
Again, I could neither condone nor condemn Tom’s decisions. I hated that he went behind Isabel’s back and jeopardized his family, but I don’t know what other option he had, given Isabel’s refusal to discuss the matter. Her coldness toward Tom at the close of Part 2 felt justified to me; how could he soothe his conscious by endangering their family? Then again, I could not excuse Isabel for tyrannically deciding how they would handle Lucy’s past without consulting her husband, thereby leaving him with no options. Do you think that Isabel should have stood by Tom at the end of Part 2? Tom and Isabel seemed so much in love in Part 1, but Lucy proved to be both the light of their lives and the undoing of their relationship. Isabel’s willfulness, excusable and almost cute during the episode with the piano specialist, is anguishing when so many lives are at stake. Once Tom’s touchstone, Isabel became someone with whom he couldn’t share the central pain in his life.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Part 2; I am bursting with opinions! Please leave your responses and reactions in the comments section. See you next week, for the third and final portion of The Light Between Oceans. Thanks for reading!
Until next time,