Priscilla White has long felt the passionate call on her life to become a missionary to India. But, the Mission Board refuses to commission any single men or women. Believing she has no hope of marriage, Priscilla comes face to face with the possibility of also losing her hope of becoming a missionary. Dr. Eli Ernest is also in a quandary. Having already traveled west to Oregon Territory, Eli’s heart is set on ministering to the Indians there. But, despite his firm conviction that a woman would never survive the harshness of the journey west, the board refuses to allow him to return as a missionary unless he is married.
Against the better judgment of both parties, Eli and Priscilla agree to a platonic marriage of convenience, allowing both of them to pursue their passion for missions. Eli is convinced that the only way to protect this fragile young woman is to send Priscilla back home to New York as soon as possible. Priscilla is determined to prove that she is tough enough to withstand any trials. But the journey west proves to both just how wrong they are.
The Doctor’s Lady is based on the true story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, missionaries to the Nez Perce Indians. The Whitmans did commit to a marriage of convenience, and many of their journey challenges are faithfully depicted in The Doctor’s Lady. Because the story is based in historical fact, what might normally be a somewhat predictable love story is instead a peek into the extreme difficulties of pioneering missions in the unsettled west of the mid-1800’s. Reading Hedlund’s novel left me wanting to know more about the Whitmans, their journey, and their ministry to the Nez Perce.
Obviously, Jody Hedlund took artistic liberty in her writing, but she gave solid foundation to that liberty by making the fictional Eli and Priscilla Ernest her hero and heroine instead of using Marcus and Narcissa Whitman as her main characters. Although Eli and Priscilla’s personal story does vary from that that of the Whitmans, The Doctor’s Lady is a great glimpse into what the Whitmans and other pioneers like them faced. I look forward to handing the novel to my girls when they are older to help them catch a glimpse of the history behind early American mission efforts.
This book was sent to me in exchange for my honest review.