The Lightkeeper's Wife, by Karen Viggers

Over Jacinta’s shoulder, Mary could see the sea rolling in. A Pacific gull flapped slowly up the beach, hanging on the breeze. This was the moment she’d been dreading. ‘I’ve organised to stay here,’ she said. ‘It’s all arranged. I’ve rented this place for a month, and I’ve paid for a Parks ranger to stop in and check on me each day to make sure I’m all right.’
Jacinta looked at her without moving.

As she nears the end of her life, Mary wants nothing more than to spend her final days on Bruny Island, where she spent the bulk of her married life and raised her three children. But those children, now adults with lives of their own, want to keep her close, especially her daughter Jan, who has been checking out nursing homes.

Taking matters into her own hands, Mary organises to rent a cottage on the island, and tricks her granddaughter into driver her there. For Mary this return to Bruny is important. Not just the whim of revisiting a favourite place, instead it is a time of restoration, of making amends for a long-held secret. Whilst she is there she is visited by Jacinta and her children, each with their own soul searching to do. It is her youngest son, Tom, who finds it easiest to understand his mother’s actions. Ten years ago he over-wintered at Antarctica, and even now he finds it difficult to fit into regular society. Both Mary and Tom must face their pasts, albeit in different ways.

The Lightkeeper’s Wife is a rich tale exploring love of different kinds and on different levels – from first love, to the bonds between mother and child, between man and dog, between siblings and more. The twin narratives – one exploring Mary’s life both past and present, and the second doing the same for her son Tom – unfold gradually, coming together and drifting apart delightfully, so that the reader feels the passage of time and wants to stay a part of both characters’ worlds.

A wonderfully rich read.

The Lightkeeper's Wife

The Lightkeeper’s Wife, by Karen Viggers
Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.