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.

The Stranding, by Karen Viggers

In the corner, his suitcase leaned lid-open against the wall. Everything he’d brought with him was still packed in there. The wardrobe remained empty. In truth, he was afraid of unpacking. Unfolding his clothes and hanging them up might signify ownership of this place. It might mean permanence of some sort. It might mean he had become someone else. Another person with another life.
But wasn’t that why he had come here? Wasn’t that why he had left?

When Lex Henderson’s life falls apart, he leaves the city and buys a beach house outside a small town. Here he can be alone, or so he thinks. But soon he starts to make connections in the town of Merrigan. Some people like him, others detest him, and others still fascinate him.

As he recovers, Lex builds new and unexpected friendships, and slowly builds a new life far removed from his old one. He also meets Callista Bennett, whose own stormy past makes their relationship volatile and very fragile.

When Lex and Callista find a whale stranded on a remote beach, the subsequent rescue attempt brings them together at the same time as it challenges their beliefs and their understanding of each other.

The Stranding is a finely tuned novel of grief and recovery, of confronting the past and moving forward. Challenged by the natural world and the society in which they live as well as by their pasts, the characters must find a way to balance these challenges with the need to carry on with living.

A wonderful read.

The Stranding, by Karen Viggers
Allen & Unwin, 2008