SPOILER ALERT!

Completed January 26, 2014

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

"Scars are just another kind of memory"

 

Yes.  Yes, they are.  But we have a choice.  They can haunt us forever, or heal completely, or stay with us always as a mild pang of remembrance.

 

 I'm disabled.  I know all about letting go, about accepting what I cannot change, about avoiding the victim trap.  But sometimes we just need to acknowledge what IS, and mourn the loss of possibilities, the roads not taken.  It's not healthy to pretend that we haven't missed out, that we haven't compromised, that we haven 't lost something along the way.

 

When people are asked, "How many children do you have?", the question seems so simple, so benign, to the questioner.  But there are a thousand buried truths, a million land mines, in that question.  My mother was pregnant 5 times, but only has two children, because she miscarried three times.  Another parent might have a child who is deceased, or missing, or homeless, or estranged.  They may be at a quandary as to how to answer the question without opening up the whole can of worms to a stranger.

 

Hannah and Frank Roennfeldt had a daughter named Grace.   Isabel and Tom Sherbourne had a child named Lucy.  Does the fact that they are one and the same - a bundle of joy loved by so many - really change the dynamics so dramatically?  She is not property, to be auctioned to the highest bidder.  She is a child, and what happens to her now will inevitably shape the woman she becomes.  Perhaps at 24 there is no lasting damage.  Who can say what the consequences will be when she is 44, or 64, or 84?  This "choix déchirant", as we put it in French (loosely, a choice that rips you apart) was made FOR her, based on considerations that did not always include concern for her well-being.

 

I am a lawyer.  I'm supposed to approach these scenarios dispassionately, set aside my emotions and recommend what is right and just and good under the circumstances.  But it's because I don't always know the "right answer" that I've chosen not to practice law in the traditional sense.  People call my office and cry.  They rage.  They implore.  And I ride the roller-coaster right along with them.  it's that compassion that is my guide in everything I do, even when I have to tell someone I cannot help them, or worse, that theirs is a problem without a solution.

 

In Lucy-Grace's case, the courts would ask (in 2014) "What is in the best interests of the child?" They would discard the selfish motives and interests of both adult parties, and they would make a decision that would try to ensure the child 's safety, stability and short-term and long-term happiness.  The custody issue would likely be deferred until the criminal matter was disposed of.  I'd like to think Tom and Isabel would be awarded custody, with liberal visitation for the Potts family.  But it's hard to tell.

 

i can't separate this heart-shattering tragedy of a story from the time period in which it is set.  All the characters are a product of their time, so moral absolutes are of no use here.  PTSD, separation anxiety, mediation - all these terms were unknown at the time.  I do think this cavalcade of losses could have been avoided if a war-scarred veteran and a flighty small town girl had not been so far from home, for so very long...but it happened, and they all had to pick up the pieces.  Not much else they could do but carry on, the best way they knew how.  That's what people did in that era.  Who am I to judge them?

 

WAVIN' FLAG by K'Naan - partial lyrics

 

So many wars, settlin' scores,

bringing us promises, leaving us poor,

I heard them say, love is the way

Love is the answer, that's what they say

But look how they treat us, make us believers

We fight their battles, then they deceive us

Try to control us, they couldn't hold us

'cause we just move forward like Buffalo soldiers

 

And together at the end of the day.

We all say

 

[chorus:]

When I get older

I will be stronger

They'll call me 'Freedom'

just like a wavin' flag

and then it goes back, and then it goes back

and then it goes back, and then it goes . . .