A Dream of Wolves

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Overview

From the author of the critically acclaimed novels A Brother's Blood and The Blind Side of the Heart comes a brilliant tale of a decent man's struggle to choose between his past and his future, between the woman he once loved and the woman he now loves.

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A Dream of Wolves

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Overview

From the author of the critically acclaimed novels A Brother's Blood and The Blind Side of the Heart comes a brilliant tale of a decent man's struggle to choose between his past and his future, between the woman he once loved and the woman he now loves.

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Editorial Reviews

Carolyn See
Taken on its own terms, this novel contains a fascinating collection of Southern customs. Its use of dialect is spare and elegant; original language trumps the predictable plot at each moment, so that even when the doctor allows as how he (duh!) loves both women in his life, we can appreciate how nicely these banalities are addressed. And, of course, male readers will recognize and sympathize with the doctor's timeless dilemma.
Washington Post
New York Times Book Review
The cruel beauty of Michael C. White's spare, unflinching prose leaves the narrator nowhere to hide.
Anne Rivers Siddons
It's a wonderful novel, strong and tender and rich. I loved it...This book deserves a big readership.
Jacquelyn Mitchard
A Dream of Wolves recalls Faulkner's ability to create a plausible imaginary universe in which painful moral choices do not depend on health, wealth or position.
Beth Gutcheon
A Dream of Wolves is the work of a master craftsman. It is original, complicated, compelling and utterly believable, and Michael C. White makes it looks easy. A wonderful read.
Anita Shreve
In addition to being beautifully written and intriguingly suspensful, A Dream of Wolves, is a marvelous evocation of place and character, right down to the flinty-eyed stare of the backwoods folk of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. A raw and powerful achievement.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
White (A Brother's Blood; The Blind Side of the Heart) skillfully swirls gut-wrenching self-discovery and mystery in his newest fictional offering. Part-time medical examiner and full-time ob-gyn "Doc" Stuart Jordan is called early one morning to a murder scene at a cabin nestled in the frigid hills of North Carolina. Expecting domestic turmoil, Doc is surprised at the composure of the suspected murderer--the deceased's common-law wife, Rosa--and her absorption with her four-month-old baby daughter, Maria. Making a rash pre-arrest vow, Doc promises Rosa he'll care for her child. Despite his age--he's 50--his full-time practice, his current affair with a married woman, and his estranged wife, Annabel, who has drifted in and out of his life since the death of their son, Doc feels bound to keep his promise. Maria's entrance into Doc's world sends him on a new path, unearthing remembrances of his son; however, it is the reappearance of his wife that throws Doc into a tailspin. Annabel, who has been unstable since their son's death, believing she was partly responsible for it, breezes into his home, assuring him that she is "better" and able to care for the baby, but Doc is wary and unwilling to trust her again. Sleuthing on the side, juggling work and foster-parenthood, a wife and a mistress, Doc must also confront the ghosts of his past and search for a balance between forgiveness and acceptance. Facing pressure from his lover, who has just left her husband, to finally divorce Annabel, Doc is torn between the woman he currently loves and the one he's spent a lifetime caring for. White's emotionally packed novel delivers first-class examinations of morality, mixing strong supporting characters and unexpected plot turns, enveloping the reader in an extraordinary story. (Feb. 5) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Stuart Jordan's nearly 30 years of work as an obstetrician-gynecologist and part-time medical examiner in a small town in North Carolina has brought him satisfaction and respect, but his private life is a mess. His wife, Annabel, is a manic-depressive who was evidently responsible for the death of their six-year-old son 14 years earlier. Although Will's death caused Annabel to hit bottom, and she now drifts in and out of Stuart's life, Stuart has never found the energy or inclination to divorce her. However, during a routine murder investigation, Stuart finds that it is impossible to withdraw completely from life's commitments. A young Indian woman accused of murder extracts a promise from him to become the guardian of her infant daughter, an event that will bring Annabel back and force him to confront his growing feelings for Bobbie, the local district attorney prosecuting the case. Unfortunately, White's (The Blind Side of the Heart) writing in his overlong novel is ponderous and repetitious. He has neglected to develop his characters into anything more than stick figures who in conversation shift uneasily between sounding like the highly educated professionals they are and extras from The Beverly Hillbillies. Not a necessary purchase.--Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
In the southern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, Doc Jordan works as an obstetrician/gynecologist as well as the medical examiner. Doc's personal life remains in shambles ever since his son died fourteen years ago. Neither he nor his separated wife found solace in one another with Annabel tending to float in and out of his life. Instead Doc lives for his work.Doc visits a domestic murder scene where apparently the common law wife, Native American Rosa Littlefoot, killed her abusive husband Lee Roy Pugh. In spite of his full agenda, Doc takes their four month old child into his home. Annabel makes one of her evanescent visits and claims she is capable of nurturing the infant, but Doc has doubts. As he investigates the murder, Doc wonders if his girlfriend is right and that he should divorce his spouse so everyone can get on with their lives. A Dream Of Wolves is not your usual ME vs. monstrous odds that Vegas would take no book. Instead this tale is more of a human drama centering on morality based on one's relative outlook on life. Doc struggles with his future knowing that even in his late fifties, he can expect a life span of two to three decades more. However, what makes Michael C. White's tale special is the secondary cast also examines their present lives in terms of their future. Placing all that inside a mystery turns Mr. White's novel into a dream book for sub-genre fans that want realistic characters not superheroes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060932367
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael C. White

Michael White's previous novels include the New York Times Notable Book A Brother's Blood as well as The Garden of Martyrs and Soul Catcher, both Connecticut Book of the Year finalists. He is the director of Fairfield University's MFA program in creative writing, and lives in Connecticut.

Biography

Michael C. White is the author of four previous novels: A Brother's Blood, which was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers nominee, as well as nominated for an Edgar; The Blind Side of the Heart, an Alternate Book-of-the-Month Club selection; and A Dream of Wolves, which received starred reviews from Booklist and Publisher's Weekly. The Garden of Martyrs (May 2004) was a finalist for the Connecticut Book Award in 2005, and he also has a collection of short stories, Marked Men. He has also published over 45 short stories in national magazines and journals, and has won the Advocate Newspapers Fiction Award and been nominated for both a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart. He was the founding editor of the yearly fiction anthology American Fiction. Currently he is the editor of Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose.

He teaches fiction writing workshops and literature courses at Fairfield University, and is on the faculty of Stonecoast, the University of Southern Maine's low-residency MFA program. He lives on a lake in Connecticut with his dog Henry.
Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Good To Know

When I was in grad school in Denver, evenings I worked as a bouncer in a bar. I got the job mostly because I knew the manager from working out together in the local weight room. Though I had no experience whatsoever, somehow he was under the mistaken impression that I was tough, and offered me the job. It seemed easy, offered free food and drinks, and I thought it was a writerly sort of position, one that I could one day put down alongside my various jobs of painting, guard duty, and selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. So I said yes. How hard could it be, I thought. My very first night on the job, though, proved me wrong. It was closing time and a drunken cowboy was trying to convince a woman to go home with him, and "no" wasn't in his vocabulary. He got very angry and started to yell and threaten her and the bartender and everyone else within range. At this point, the manager called upon the services of the bouncer-yours truly. The manager told me to throw him out on his ear. I didn't know if I was literally supposed to make him land on his ear or not, but it turned out he was much bigger than I was and throwing him out in any fashion wasn't an option. He threatened to beat my head to a pulp. I My fear honed my creative skills. With everyone watching, I leaned toward the man and whispered in his ear: "You probably could beat my head to a pulp, but if you do, I'll be in the hospital and you'll be in jail, and we'll both regret it." Luckily, he was sober enough to see the wisdom of this and, grumbling, stormed out of the bar.

I grew up in a very blue collar family. My father was a farmer and later a carpenter, and when I was a boy I used to accompany him to work, helping him saw boards and pound nails. It was hard work, and I soon realized I didn't want to do something like that for the rest of my life. I've had only two career dreams. Throughout school I played baseball and hoped one day to play professional ball. A torn rotator put an end to those dreams. After that, my only other dream was to become a writer. I just hope I don't come down with carpel tunnel because I'm too old to start a third career.

I enjoy fly fishing, hiking, biking, and working out in the gym.

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    1. Hometown:
      Guilford, CT, USA
    1. Date of Birth:
      1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Hartford, CT, USA
    1. Education:
      University of Connecticut - B.A., English; M.A., English, 1975, 1977; University of Denver - Ph.D., English
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



"Gotcha one, Doc," came Cecil Clegg's familiar twang on the other end of the phone. His voice syrupy-thick, urgent, slightly bovine, what I imagine an unmilked cow sounding like if a cow could talk. That chewing-on-cud hillbilly accent, the vowels all drawn out and masticated to hell.

Fuzzy-headed, I glanced at the bedside digital clock, which proclaimed, in letters so red they seared the darkness like a branding iron, 2:13. The familiar dream I was having when Cecil called still hovered uneasily nearby. Will. I'd been dreaming about him a lot lately. In it he'd had his own dream. A dream within a dream, like one of those Chinese boxes Annabel used to collect. As if in a Grimm fairy-tale, he'd awakened from a nightmare with wolves chasing him through some dark wood, and had run into our room and clambered into bed with us.

He'd gone through a period when he used to have bad dreams involving wolves. I'm not sure why. We don't have any in these mountains. Though there's a Wolf Knob and a Wolf Lake three miles east of here, wolves have been extinct in the southern Blue Ridge for more than half a century. Maybe it was some book we read to him or just his child's fertile imagination. In any case, wolves terrified him. Each night he'd insist I look under the bed to make sure none were lurking there, that his window was locked. Despite these precautions, he'd sometimes wake from a nightmare and make a dash for our room. He'd crawl between Annabel and me, smelling vaguely of urine and fear, his small heart beating like a drum. A wolf was after me, Dad, he'd say. He had these big teeth. I'd tell him everything was fine,that it was just a dream, as if that made his fear any less real. My own dream seemed so real I found myself patting the far side of the bed, as if searching for him. But it was empty, of course, the sheets cool as rubbing alcohol on the skin.

"Y'all there, Doc?" Cecil asked, interrupting my thoughts.

I felt an odd sensation in the back of my head, an unpleasant kind of tickle, as if someone were teasing my brain with a feather. I was still half asleep. I'd been at the hospital until eleven with a protracted labor, and, pooped but wired as I always am after such a birth, it was nearly one before two glasses of Scotch had induced sleep in me. What I wanted more than anything was for Cecil to be just a dream so I could crawl back into my other dream and lie there holding my son. But duty called.

"I'm here," I said at last.

"You are covering tonight, right?"

"I'm covering," I replied. "What's up?"

"For a minute I thought maybe I should've been bothering Dr. Neinhuis."

"No, you're bothering the right fellow. Rob went over to Charlotte to be with his in-laws for Christmas."

"I don't mind saying I prefer working with you anyway, Doc."

"'Preciate that, Cecil," I said, dropping syllables, which you tend to do after being here as long as I have. It's not so much an effort to fit in, plane the edges off my sharp New England accent, as it is pure contagion. Or sheer laziness. I'm not sure which. "What do you have?"

"Not that I got anything against Neinhuis, mind you," he said, ignoring me. "It's just his manner I don't take to."

"Rob's a little high-strung."

"I'll say. He lets you know right quick he's the doctor. And you're just some redneck peckerwood with a badge."

"So what's up?" I asked, growing impatient.

"Not like you, Doc. You're regular folk. Or almost," he added with a snicker.

"You didn't call at two in the morning to tell me I'm regular folk."

He laughed nervously. "Sorry. Got us a homicide."

He never liked to tell me straight out why he was calling. He had this exasperating habit of making small talk, giving it to me a little bit at a time, almost as if he feared that if he dumped it on me all at once, I just might hang up on him and go back to bed. Which I sometimes had a good mind to do. Yet I knew when Cecil Clegg, the Hubbard County sheriff, called in the middle of the night like this it could only mean one thing: He wanted me to pronounce somebody. Pronounce, the way you would a word, or two people man and wife. Only in this case it was saying they were legally, certifiably dead. Cecil wanted me to drag my butt out of a nice warm bed and accompany him to some sordid spot where death had left its signature. To drive out with him to a cold, dark stretch of mountain road or hoof it into the woods or climb down into someone's dank-smelling cellar. All those places people choose (if they're lucky) or have chosen for them (if they're not) as the spot where they'll breathe their last.

It might be some trucker, say, who'd fallen asleep at the wheel while hauling logs over to Knoxville. Or a girl who'd made the mistake of hitchhiking home after the high school dance and was just another face on a poster until some fisherman snagged her moon-pale thigh with his Rapala out at Glenwood Lake. Or a kid from the college who'd gone backpacking alone in the mountains, got himself good and lost, and what was left of him in the spring after crows and wild dogs got through with him would fit in a violin case.

A Dream of Wolves. Copyright © by Michael White. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

About the Book
Hubbard County, North Carolina. The heart of the Southern Blue Ridge mountains is an isolated place of rugged beauty. Its people are close-knit, wary of outsiders, labeled as backwards hillbillies. Dr. Stuart Jordan, a transplanted Yankee, has spent nearly thirty years trying to understand and to help these people. At 57, Doc, as his friends call him, is a man who lives a quiet life in the small mountain town of Slade. Since the tragic death of his son fourteen years earlier, he has a thrown himself into his work: by day he runs an OB/GYN practice, delivering babies and tending to women, while he moonlights as the town's medical examiner, as he puts it, "working the other end of the line." He has dedicated himself to caring for his mentally ill wife, Annabel, a former artist. Driven by drugs, alcohol, and her own raging demons, Annabel has become a drifter, a street person who floats in and out of his life, wreaking havoc. For months, sometimes even years, he won't hear from her. Just when he allows himself to consider a future, out of the blue his estranged wife will show up at his doorstep, or he'll get a call from a hospital asking him to come and get her. There in the farmhouse on Shadow Mountain, he'll nurse her back to health only to see her leave him once more. Though he knows the only answer is divorce, Doc can never quite bring himself to abandon the woman he once loved, and so he remains locked in this unhappy cycle.

One night Doc is called out to the scene of a brutal murder. An Indian woman, Rosa Littlefoot, has gunned down her abusive lover, Lee Roy Pugh, a white man related to a violent hill clan. When Doc arrives, the woman is holding herbaby, refusing to give it up. Cecil, the county sheriff, asks Doc to intervene, hoping to get the baby safely away from her. He succeeds but gets more than he bargains for. Before she gives her baby up, Rosa extracts a promise from Doc: to see to it that her child is looked after while she's in jail. Thus, is Doc slowly drawn into a tangled web of lives and conflicts: those of Rosa and her baby, the backwoods Pugh clan, and Bobbie Tisdale, the local D.A., a beautiful woman who has recently become Doc's lover. There is also the secret Rosa shares with no one. And finally, of course, there is Annabel.

Questions for Discussion

  • Like many physicians, Stuart "Doc" Jordan, the narrator of the novel, works long hours. Is there any reason in his particular circumstance why he puts in such long hours?
  • Doc Jordan is, as he himself admits and as his friend, Cecil Clegg says, a Yankee, an outsider in this insular world of mountain people. What makes him such an ideal narrator? Why not a narrator who is from Hubbard County?
  • The Prologue begins with the following quote: "What I know of death is how hard we work to deserve it and how little we appreciate it when it finally comes." Given what happens later in the novel, what is the significance of this statement?
  • The women in Doc's life, his estranged wife Annabel and his new lover Bobbie, have very different personalities. What attracts Doc to each woman? Does he love each one?
  • Babies as well as the process of childbearing is very important to the novel. Discuss the various ways babies and woman giving birth are significant to the story.
  • The Appalachian Mountains and its people have been portrayed in various stereotypical ways, from Lil Abner to Deliverance. Doc himself admitted that when he first came to the region he also harbored similar stereotypes. Yet he says, "Slade, like most of the new South, was rapidly changing, sloughing off its small-town, bible-thumping, good-ole-boy skin." Discuss the ways the area is changing, breaking away from those stereotypes, and the effects those changes are having on its people and their traditions.
  • Doc Jordan is a man who is confronted by several moral, emotional, and legal choices? What are those choices and what are the repercussions of each?
  • There are several contradictions in Doc's life. For example, his day job, as he calls it, is nurturing life while his night job, that of part-time ME, is "working the other end of the line." Discuss this and other contradictions in his life.
  • Though Annabel says she wants Stu to be happy she continually returns and throws his life into chaos. Why does she keep coming back and why does he keep taking her in?
  • Several other women are important to Doc. Who are they and how are they significant to him? How do they affect him?
  • After Doc's meeting with Leonard Blackfox, when he learns about the events of the night of the murder, there's one thing that is still unclear to Doc. What is it and how does he handle it?
  • Dreams are an important device in the novel, starting right with the title. Discuss how dreams are used here.
  • At the end of the novel, Annabel leaves. However, even now Doc imagines her calling or returning some day. Do you think she will return?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent morality thriller

    In the southern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, Doc Jordan works as an obstetrician/gynecologist as well as the medical examiner. Doc¿s personal life remains in shambles ever since his son died fourteen years ago. Neither he nor his separated wife found solace in one another with Annabel tending to float in and out of his life. Instead Doc lives for his work. <P>Doc visits a domestic murder scene where apparently the common law wife, Native American Rosa Littlefoot, killed her abusive husband Lee Roy Pugh. In spite of his full agenda, Doc takes their four month old child into his home. Annabel makes one of her evanescent visits and claims she is capable of nurturing the infant, but Doc has doubts. As he investigates the murder, Doc wonders if his girlfriend is right and that he should divorce his spouse so everyone can get on with their lives. <P>A DREAM OF WOLVES is not your usual ME vs. monstrous odds that Vegas would take no book. Instead this tale is more of a human drama centering on morality based on one¿s relative outlook on life. Doc struggles with his future knowing that even in his late fifties, he can expect a life span of two to three decades more. However, what makes Michael C. White¿s tale special is the secondary cast also examines their present lives in terms of their future. Placing all that inside a mystery turns Mr. White¿s novel into a dream book for sub-genre fans that want realistic characters not superheroes. <P>Harriet Klausner

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2001

    Seemingly predictable but not so.

    I'm three quaters of the way through and it still holds my attention. The dialogue is realistic and engaging. The locale is interesting. I have an issue with how the author describes the minority socio-economic characters, rather high-handedly and as if we were perhaps still dealing with the white-mans-burden. With the female Amerindian character he uses the word feral in not a nice context. And then something about Indians not having a concept of time (?!?!). These might just be slips of the pen. And another thing, hilbillies, the main hero male character thinks are like children, no doubt these 'weaknesses' are part of modern society and the author is just portraying how hig-minded people can still mess up. I'm a little confused with when the hero is musing and when the author is speaking.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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