"He said the time had come when men of high reputation in the sight of God could take extra wives..."

Gabriel Romain is a young doctor among the Mormons who began relocating to the city of "Far West," Missouri, taking refuge after the church's financial speculations in Kirtland, Ohio, had failed. By 1838 there were more than four thousand Mormons in Far West. This novel joins Gabe and his sister Marie, escaped slave Eb, his friend Nathaniel, and others as they re-orient themselves in this new place. Tension builds again between believers and other Missouri citizens, culminating in Governor Boggs's infamous "exterminating order" after mustering 2,500 militia troops to put down the "Mormon rebellion." Joseph and Hyrum Smith negotiated a surrender by October of 1838, and the body of believers once again forfeited their property and rights to gain safe passage to Illinois. Most of the novel concerns Gabriel's wedding to Bethia, who seems to suffer from depression, and his encounter with the rapidly changing circumstances of life in Nauvoo, Illinois.

The Mormon period between Far West and Nauvoo is filled with suspense and violence. The author projects how she imagines a normal believer in this period of American history would think, act, speak, and feel. Gabriel being so busy traveling hither and yon to treat innumerable patients is a clever device to allow for distance from the external happenings of the church leadership. However, his best friend Nathaniel is closer to the top, and so red flags like the harsh treatment of dissenters are not ignored. Ideas of unhappy marriages and the possible advantages of plural marriage are given only a slight consideration in the tensions between Gabriel and Bethia. The main characters voice misgivings at the evolving doctrines in Nauvoo, affirming that drastic shifts in belief were in the air.

Return to USR Home