Historical fiction means much more when it's been inspired by a true story, and that's just what Jody Hedlund gives her readers in "The Doctor's Lady".
It is 1836, and Priscilla White knows she has been called to be a missionary teacher in India. She is just as sure that God has called her to remain single, but the Mission Board has decided young, single women are not fit for the dangerous mission field, and have turned down her application.
Dr. Eli Ernest is also bound for the mission field - as a doctor to the native tribes in the newly discovered northwest. He has spent a year among the tribes in Oregon, and longs to return, but the Mission Board supporting him has determined that he must take a wife along, or not return at all.
In order for both of them to fulfill God's call, Priscilla and Eli decide to marry - in name only. But even as they start their journey west, have the seeds of romance already been planted?
Jody Hedlund was inspired by the story of Narcissa and Marcus Whitman, missionaries to the Nez Perce Indians in the early 1800's. Mrs. Hedlund drew extensively from the Whitman's diaries for her story, giving the incidents along the way the true flavor of authenticity.
"The Doctor's Lady" is Mrs. Hedlund's second book (her first was her award-winning "The Preacher's Bride", 2010), and I hope we will be able to enjoy many more offerings. Her next book, "Unending Devotion", is due out September, 2012, and is available for pre-order now.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for my unbiased review.
I really liked that Jody based this novel on real people - Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, which she talks a little bit about at the end of the book. It is a fictionalized tale, but one that is heavily based on Narcissa's personal journals. This story covers from the point when Eli comes to New York and visits Priscilla's community church and their entire journey back across the continent to Oregon, to what would eventually become the Oregon Trail. Priscilla (Narcissa) was the first white female to ever cross the continental divide - a feat that many thought was impossible to be achieved by any woman. It seemed that at every turn their paid guides left them high and dry, but Eli was bound and determined to get Prescilla there in one piece. Their traveling companions, Henry and Mabel Spalding (Henry and Eliza Spalding), made for interesting company, especially since Priscilla had once turned down Henry for her hand in marriage.
It is obvious the amount of research Jody has done and I actually want to read Narcissa's firsthand accounts of their journey. Overall, I really enjoyed the story of their overland journey and look forward to Jody Hedlund's other book, The Preacher's Bride, which is based on the story of Paul Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress and his wife Elizabeth.
Thanks to Bethany House for providing me with an copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.