Portland, Maine, 1910. An assembly gathers to listen to a fundraising lecture by the esteemed medical missionary Doctor Wilfred Grenfell. Grenfell has been working for eighteen years with trappers, fishermen, and their families on Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula and in coastal Labrador. Thanks in part to the wild adventures recorded in his recent bestseller, Adrift on an Ice Pan, Grenfell is becoming ever more famous in North America.
But tonight something is wrong. The man who appears before the audience as “the good doctor” suddenly receives a challenge from the floor. He neither looks, sounds, nor acts like the real Wilfred Grenfell.
Thirty years later, during research for an article, journalist Judy Agar tracks down the Grenfell imposter living quietly in Massachusetts. It soon transpires that he and the real Grenfell share a common history which dates back to London in the 1880s. As medical students they shadowed each other through the corridors of a London hospital, the music halls, the evangelist missions, and the slums, each of them vying for the affections of a young nurse whose influence turned out to be decisive for them both.