shipwrecked love


light between


  It is just after World War II, and Tom Sherbourne returns to his native Australia seeking solace and normalcy after enduring the horrors experienced as a soldier on the Western Front. Kind, thoughtful, and meticulous Tom lands a job as lighthouse keeper on the island of Janus. It’s lonely work, but Tom enjoys the routine, and quiet accountability of helping to assure the safe passage of cargo and passengers off of Australia’s shoreline.  He sets about making repairs to the Light, and keeps strict and meticulous records of all activity on Janus, as is his responsibility.  Tom can be trusted to do a job well, and he takes great pride in being a man to be counted upon to do the right thing. To his great good fortune, if not his great surprise, Tom meets Isabel Graysmark while on leave from Janus.  Isabel is everything Tom is not: gregarious, creative, outgoing. Isabel doesn’t so much seduce Tom as declare that their match is right and inescapable.  An epistolary courtship follows and on his next leave from the island, Tom and Isabel are married. They return to Janus a couple, starting their life together in their own little island world. Isabel suffers a series of pitiful miscarriages, each one stealing a little more of her light. 

And then one day a rowboat washes up on the island carrying a dead man and a live baby. Of course, Tom is inclined to report the incident, as is his natural and assigned responsibility. But Isabel, having lost three babies and one only recently, has been delivered an infant in need of a mother. She convinces Tom to delay reporting the body and the baby. Eventually all lines blur and Isabel names the baby Lucy and insists she is their own.   As much as he loves her, Tom cannot totally reconcile baby Lucy as his; instead arguing that she belongs to someone, somewhere, who surely grieves her loss. Isabel has no such qualms.  She considers Lucy a gift from God, and being mother to the little girl in all ways feels as natural to her as breathing. Like all secrets, Tom and Isabel’s slowly unravels.

On a trip to the mainland Tom encounters a woman whose child was lost at the same time that Lucy was found. Tom is devoured by guilt. On the night before the Sherbourne family is to return from the mainland to Janus, an anonymous note is found in the grieving mother’s mail box. A cryptic hand-written message assures the woman that her daughter is loved. A second trip to the mainland, a second hand-written message, and the Sherbourne’s story dissolves like paper in water.  Baby Lucy is reunited with her birth mother,  while Tom claims all responsibility for the deceit to protect Isabel. Following her betrayal, Isabel suffers an emotional breakdown, rejecting  Tom. Lucy is torn from the loving embrace from the only mother she’s ever known, and is inconsolable, rebuffing this stranger who now possesses her, her birth mother.

The Light Between Oceans is about finding one’s way in uncertain waters. It is a book that deftly examines the choices we make, and living with the inevitable outcomes. It is about love and courage and doing the right thing.  It is a book not to be missed. Cynthia G.

into the woods

n is for nature. and nurture. and nihilist.

read our coolest review to date. here.muirwoods6

and then, as if that wasn’t enough, we’re even blushing about the subject.

Midlife Crisis


I clip shoots from my rosemary plant and sauté the spiky, needle-like leaves with onions, butter and wine to make a mushroom barley soup my family loves.  The scent, fragrant and alluring, makes inroads to heaven.  We eat it all, every bite.  I grew up in the “clean your plate” era, raised by parents who themselves were children of depression-era children.  My grandparents were familiar with the demoralizing nature of such demanding times, and maybe because of this collective consciousness, I abhor wasteful habits.  As kids, we didn’t question, we just cleaned our plates.  I don’t force my own kids to do this, but I ask that they take only what they think they’ll eat.  Leftovers aren’t a problem, a staple of the next day’s school and work lunches.  Most days I pack a lunch and even give my kids incentive money to pack instead of buying which serves the twin purposes of bolstering their savings accounts and assuring me they’ll eat well.  Plus they learn the value of food.

Perhaps this is why the other day my daughter brought home bags and bags of hoagie rolls.  The nationwide franchise sandwich shop where she works tosses their leftover bread and starts fresh each day.  Understandable, yet wasteful.  Fretful and disillusioned, my 17-year old couldn’t understand her employer’s policy so she rescued the bread before it took a dumpster dive, intent on giving it to someone who could benefit.  Her employer agreed to look the other way, but required that there be no mention of the bread’s origins.  We’d welcome a few loaves, but four dozen would fill our freezer to bursting.  We considered the list of places that would be good candidates while the liability issues ran an endless loop in my brain.  Today’s litigious society is fierce even where good intentions abound, but my daughter was adamant so we brainstormed.  The homeless shelter?  Day care center?  Women’s shelter?  Church?  All suggestions led back to the same quandary:  how to get the food, once debuted, from place to place before it went bad, and the trickier question, what if someone got sick?  Silly because it was bread, but lawsuits have been won over less (spilled hot coffee comes to mind).

When I was a kid, my parents had a delicatessen at the shore and we often gave the leftover food to the local nunnery.  A few times a week I’d carry the spaghetti sauce and meatballs, pasta and tuna salads, and other prepared foods possessed of a limited shelf-life the few blocks to the nuns.  They gave profuse thanks, and never once complained about the food’s second run.  Today, over 30 million tons of still usable food is landfilled each year, left to rot and turn to methane.

I later discovered organizations in neighboring Philadelphia, Philabundance, and one in Northeast New Jersey, Table to Table. The latter is a self-characterized “food rescue” program.  Five refrigerated trucks, and a partnership with local businesses that have good quality, no longer salable food form the core business plan. The company picks up and delivers fresh foods to non-profit organizations with a needy clientele all in the same day, marking the difference between them and a local food bank.  Imagine if such an organization existed in every community — the end of leftover food’s mid-life crisis!  Lacking a nearby equivalent, we distributed our stash to friends and family.  Maybe next time I’ll drive to Jersey.