Mette, a fourteen year old, struggles with mental impairment while her Danish family are converted to Mormonism by two Mormon missionaries who have traveled to Denmark in 1857. The family barely survives the passage by ship to New York, a train ride to Council Bluffs Iowa, and a harrowing completion of their journey in covered wagons to Salt Lake City Utah.
Mette’s identity changes, becoming Magrete intermittently. As Magrete she thinks her sister is Mette whom she has unwittingly invented as well as other personalities throughout the story.
Mette carries a locket given to her by her grandmother. Her grandmother claimed the locket contains a drawing of the queen of Spain from centuries back and was given to the impregnated ancestor by the sailor before leaving on his ship. Mette cherishes it dearly especially when transitioning to Magrete. She has visions of the sailor coming to life, talking to her and expounding his love and protection. These intermittent visions become her refuge.
Mette/Magrete is an unstable narrator suffering from her mental struggle, but who has uncanny insight into the realities and hardships her family faces when becoming Mormons. She warns her family when the church requires multiple wives, and when the church walks precariously the line of blood atonement if one veers away from Joseph Smith’s vision.