On the Offshore Lights you can live any story you want to tell yourself, and no one will say you’re wrong: not the seagulls, not the prisms, not the wind.
So Isabel floats further and further into her world of divine benevolence, where prayers are answered, where babies arrive by the will of God and the working of currents.
There's this married couple, their names are Tom and Isabel. For the purposes of this review, Tom = Doormat and Isabel = Batshit Crazy but we'll shorten it to Batshit. It's 1926 Australia, we're on a rock (it's actually called Janus Rock) in the ocean in the middle of nowhere, and considering we're in Australia, it's even middle-of-nowhere-er.
Doormat is a lighthouse keeper. He records the motion of the ocean, the way of the waves, the bodies that wash ashore, and all of that. Well, not so much the bodies that wash ashore, because that happens just once, and apparently, once is one time too many because that didn't turn out well at all.
The day when a man dies and is washed ashore is called "the day of the miracle." Hoooooo-kay. Whatever you call it, Batshit.
Ok, here's the situation. One day a dead body washes ashore. Along with it is a wee lil baby, a living baby. Batshit is a woman who desperately wants a child. She has suffered from multiple stillbirths and is grieving and is going slowly mad because of it. A long time ago, she was a woman who had a lot of joy and happiness in her. It was what attracted Doormat to Batshit in the first place.
...he wondered what other secrets lay behind her playful smile.
8 years later, we know what secret lies behind that "playful smile." Pure, unadulterated lunacy.
Batshit wants a child. A baby washes ashore! Huzzah! It's a miracle! Only, the baby's not theirs to keep. Sure, it's 1926. And sure, it's Australia, the wild land populated by criminals and kangaroos and wombats (or maybe that's New Zealand?), and people who speak really, really strangely.
“Izzy,” Tom called. “Izzy, wait! Don’t do your ’nana, love. He’s not…” But she was already too far off to hear the rest of his words.
“She…” Tom considered whether to explain. “She got the wrong end of the stick about it. Sorry. She’s chucked a wobbly. Once she does that, all you can do is batten down the hatches and wait for it to pass. Means I’ll be making sandwiches for lunch, I’m afraid.”
But in this lawless land, in this lawless time, there are still regulations and shit to be followed. That's why Tom's there, working as the lighthouse keeper. So when a dead man and a living baby washes ashore, Tom's got a whole lot of fucking paperwork to fill out.
“It’s all got to go in the log, pet. You know I’ve got to report everything straightaway,” Tom said, for his duties included noting every significant event at or near the light station, from passing ships and weather, to problems with the apparatus.
Only he doesn't. Because his beloved Batshit insists on keeping the baby, for just a little bit longer, the way a 4-year old child says "Please, daddy, I'll go to bed in just 5 minutes!" It ain't gonna happen. It's never going to be just five fucking minutes, and Batshit isn't just planning to keep the poor half-dead baby just oooooooooone more day. Despite what Doormat tells her, against all fucking common sense to just, you know turn the baby in to proper authorities, Batshit doesn't fucking listen.
“Then the baby’s probably got a mother waiting for it somewhere onshore, tearing her hair out. How would you feel if it was yours?”
“You saw the cardigan. The mother must have fallen out of the boat and drowned.”
“Sweetheart, we don’t have any idea about the mother. Or about who the man was.”
“It’s the most likely explanation, isn’t it? Infants don’t just wander off from their parents.”
“Izzy, anything’s possible. We just don’t know.”
“When did you ever hear of a tiny baby setting off in a boat without its mother?” She held the child a fraction closer.
-_- Oh, logic, you really fucking got it, eh, Batshit? Sure, the baby's mother isn't there. She must be dead. Somehow. Her body must be on the bottom of the ocean floor. The baby can't POSSIBLY have another relative on land.
Makes perfect fucking sense. To someone who belongs in Bedlam asylum (not to be mistaken for Arkham asylum. This isn't Batman) Do they have a Bedlam franchise in Australia?
Poor Doormat's got a crisis of conscience. He wants to do the right thing, but he's just so fucking in love with Batshit that he gives in. Totally whipped.
“I suppose, at a pinch…” he conceded, the words coming with great difficulty, “I could—leave the signal until the morning. First thing, though. As soon as the light’s out.”
Yeah, so they wait one day to turn the baby in. And the next thing you know Batshit's breast-feeding the baby! Well, that escalated quickly!
“Oh, little sweetheart,” she murmured, and slowly unbuttoned her blouse. Seconds later, the child had latched on fast, sucking contentedly, though only a few drops of milk came.
They had been like that for a good while when Tom entered the kitchen. “How’s the—” He stopped in mid-sentence, arrested at the sight.
Isabel looked up at him, her face a mixture of innocence and guilt. “It was the only way I could get her to settle.”
“But… Well…” Alarmed, Tom couldn’t even frame his questions.
“She was desperate. Wouldn’t take the bottle…”
“But—but she took it earlier, I saw her…”
Uh, ok. So the baby can bottle feed, it's just more convenient to breastfeed her. -____________-;
And then next thing you know, the baby's got a name.
“We need to welcome Lucy, and say a prayer for her poor father.”
“If that’s who he was,” said Tom. “And Lucy?”
“Well she needs a name. Lucy means ‘light,’ so it’s perfect, isn’t it?”
Seriously, what the fuck? Now all thought of turning the baby in to the authorities is out the window, because how the fuck is poor Doormat going to explain the fact that they kept the baby for weeks, gave her a name, breastfed her, didn't notify the authorities right away, and didn't notify the authorities that they found a dead body that might be her father. Clearly, they're in some deep fucking doodoo.
And Batshit is there in her little land of happiness, contented with the fact that she has her wewy own baby! Let's just forget about the fact that the baby may or may not still have a mother or a relative. Let's just throw out all reason out the window.
“Izzy, Izzy! You know I’d do anything for you, darl, but—whoever that man is and whatever he’s done, he deserves to be dealt with properly. And lawfully, for that matter. What if the mother’s not dead, and he’s got a wife fretting, waiting for them both?”
“What woman would let her baby out of her sight? Face it, Tom: she must have drowned.”
What woman would let her baby out of her sight? Maybe a desperate one? Maybe one who gave her to a nanny while she was away? Guh!
So there they live, in blissful happy ostrich-in-the-sand-land for several years. Until they realize that, well, shit the baby's mother might be alive. And she ain't a bad person, or a despicable person.
“Funny how lives turn out, isn’t it? Born to more money than you can shake a stick at; went all the way to Sydney University to get a degree in something or other; married the love of her life—and you see her now sometimes, wandering about, like she’s got no home to go to.”
So as it turned out, the baby's mother is alive and breathing. And wealthy. And scared, and lost, and lonely, because she's lost her husband AND her child. Poor Hannah may be rich, but she's had to fight for her love. She fought to marry a German, and this was pretty bad, considering this is post-WWI. Her father disinherited her, she had to work menial labor, she had to suffer a lot to marry the love of her life. And now her husband may be dead somewhere, she doesn't know (because Batshit and Doormat never reported the dead body) and her daughter may be dead somewhere, she doesn't know (because Batshit and Doormat never reported FINDING A FUCKING BABY).
So Hannah is now searching for her husband and daughter. She is wealthy because her father has accepted her again. If Batshit and Doormat returned the baby (Lucy) (who's more like a small child by now), Lucy will have a happy life with a loving mother, a loving aunt, and a doting grandfather, not to mention she'll be rich as fuck. Settled for life, yo. The natural thing, the good thing to do would be to give Lucy that future.
But of course, they're not called Doormat and Batshit by me for nothing.
So there's poor Hannah. In mourning. Desolate. Childless.
And here's how Batshit reacts to that.
“Hannah had a terrible tragedy a few years ago. Family lost at sea—her husband, and a daughter who would have been about your girl’s age by now. She’s always asking that sort of thing. Seeing little ones sets her off.”
“Dreadful,” Isabel managed to mutter.
Understatement of the fucking century.
The Romance: There is no romance in this book. It is a love borne out of madness and obsession. It is a love that is full of mindless devotion on Doormat's part, with pure emotional manipulation on Batshit's part.
“How can you be so hard-hearted? All you care about is your rules and your ships and your bloody light.” These were accusations Tom had heard before, when, wild with grief after her miscarriages, Isabel had let loose her rage against the only person there—the man who continued to do his duty, who comforted her as best he could, but kept his own grieving to himself.
Doormat's mad devotion to his wife will eventually be his own downfall, and as we will learn towards the climax of the book, that love is truly a one-way street.
Overall: This book didn't convince me of anything. There were morality issues that failed to send any sort of message besides that of "crazy woman is crazy," "life sucks," and "men need to grow some balls." I didn't like any of the main characters, I ended up being sympathetic to Hannah aka poor mom who lost the kid, which made it all the more frustrating when crazy woman is constantly shoved in our face.
Maybe I'm not supposed to like the main characters, but why the hell should I bother to read a book if everything about it frustrates me?