This is a book for book clubs, which is fine since it's advertised as such and even got a stamp from Oprah herself. What I like about that is it doesn't lead you to believe it's anything other than a book written to be discussed in book clubs. I like to call them "book club bait" because book clubs just love 'em.
The story is about a WWI veteran, his wife, a lighthouse, an infant, and some moral complications following the couple's decision to keep the child and raise her as their own. The veteran, Tom, marries a young woman, Isabel, and takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, on the tip of Antarctica, south of Australia. The scenery and life on the island are described in lovely flowing language that takes on a sweeping effect that's so often found in turbulent historical fiction romances. The only thing steering this story away from becoming another sweeping romance is infertility. Tom and Isabel have trouble conceiving and suffer through many miscarriages which leave them childless. The truly crushing thing here is they are on an island in the middle of the ocean with only each other for comfort. What follows is lovely flowing language about isolation, desolation, melancholia, and ultimately hopelessness. Isabel spends much of this period weeping, and Tom spends all of it trying to console her.
Just when all hope seems lost, a "miracle" happens in the form of a boat washing up on the beach carrying a dead man and a living child. They name the infant Lucy, and together they become a family. Every few years, the couple return to the mainland to visit friends and family and gather news of the world. This time they bring Lucy along only to find out that she has a mother, stricken with grief and madness, who still searches for her and her dead father. And issues of debatable morality ensue.