Wildernessby Dennis Danvers
Alice White has a secret. There is no friend or family member she can confide in—and she cannot trust it to the strangers she chooses for the fevered one-night stands that are as close as she dares come to love. Then she meets Erik Summers, college professor and biologist, who draws Alice from her cage, igniting a passion within her that she can't control or
Alice White has a secret. There is no friend or family member she can confide in—and she cannot trust it to the strangers she chooses for the fevered one-night stands that are as close as she dares come to love. Then she meets Erik Summers, college professor and biologist, who draws Alice from her cage, igniting a passion within her that she can't control or deny. Though he shares her fire and a deep spiritual and emotional kinship, Erik recoils from Alice's apparent delusions and dark truths. But in the vast Canadian wilderness, he will be forced to confront a staggering reality—when the moon shines down on Alice White . . . and the change begins again.
Dennis Danvers's Wilderness is a spellbinding, erotically charged novel of love and transformation.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- 4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.96(d)
Read an Excerpt
The medical buildings in Richmond were packed in together like components on a circuit board. Though ugly, they had the comforting geometry of machinery. Sick people battled the worst traffic in the city to reach the place except for the more serious who were brought by ambulance.
One large building was devoted to mental illness: the Mental Health Clinic. It had its own tiny parking lot with a sign reading "Mental Health Parking Only. All Others Will Be Towed."
Alice had found humor in this sign, but when she tried to share it with her psychiatrist, Dr. Adams, he didn't seem to get it.
"I can't explain," she'd said.
"Oh, give it a try." He smiled. He had a nice smile.
"Why should I?" she asked, really wanting to know.
He chuckled. "Now, now. I'm asking the questions here."
No, Alice thought, I am.
He always made the effort to understand even when it was something she wanted to let go. She'd come to him, more than anything else, for understanding. But it was hard to be understood, and somehow his determination made it harder still.
In the waiting room today, a despondent-looking woman sat staring into the far comer where there was nothing to see but the arcs in the carpet where the vacuum had passed. Alice had stared there herself when she'd first come. Now this woman stared each week as she waited for her son, who had taken over the hour before Alice's when the Swedish man whose hour it had been committed suicide. Alice had liked the Swedish man, whose name, he said, was Benny. He had asked her to lunch, but she'd declined with an abrupt, "No, thank you." It was that or lie to him make up a boyfriend ora job that claimed her day and night. But she didn't want to lie to him. "Sweden is much different from here," he said to her many times.
The woman staring into the corner had glanced up and saw Alice looking at her. Alice smiled and nodded.
"I'm at the end of my rope," the woman said.
Alice glanced above the door to check the clock, which was set ten minutes slow. The woman's son was running over. "I'm sorry," Alice said.
"He quit bringing his boyfriends home," the woman said. "I told him he was breaking his poor father's heart. But now he goes off nights who knows where."
The woman looked back to the corner. She didn't seem to expect an answer. Alice didn't know who went off, the father or the son or both. It didn't matter. The woman still waited and had no idea why she was alone.
Alice returned to her magazine, a New Yorker. The sly, cynical cartoons depressed her. They seemed like inside jokes. But she couldn't read as she waited to talk to the doctor Luther, he insisted she call him. She thought about what she might say to him. He was the only person she was honest with. She looked forward each week to the moments of bluntness she allowed herself here. Elsewhere she was quiet, almost invisible. She'd lied for so long, it felt good to talk to someone else as she did sometimes in the mirror when she got drunk or high. This mirror talked back, of course, though he didn't say much that helped. He was such an odd little man, each word thoughtful. Sometimes it made her tired just to listen to him, but he listened to her, that was the important thing, and eventually he might believe her.
In the middle of the magazine, a kelly green Colorado landscape shone from the page. She read the copy: "The most precious thing you can own. Land ... what else can give you so much pleasure now and for years to come? ... It's the perfect place to acquire a substantial part of the American dream."
The door to the office opened, and Dr. Adams came out. A tall, awkward boy slumped beside him. Adams, a short man, put a hand on the boy's shoulder and looked up into his puffy eyes. Adams wore the same smile Alice had seen when she cried in his office. He seemed to think crying was good medicine and must be greeted with grim good humor.
"Now remember what we talked about," he said. The boy imitated Adam's smile and nodded. Alice looked over at the mother, now standing as well, her purse held in front of her as if she feared a blow to the stomach. Does Luther think words can make any difference, Alice wondered. And is he right? The mother and son, returned to each other, looked caged and helpless. Alice stood as they passed and thought what she would say to them if she were the doctor and they paid her to listen. "It doesn't matter," she would say, "it just doesn't matter."
"Thank you, doctor," the woman said, as she did each week, and led her son away. Adams turned a fresh smile on Alice and gestured toward the open door.
Adams's office smelled of books and would have been cozy if it weren't for the overwhelming scent of perfumed tissue. Prints of French Impressionists and another slow clock occupied the wall to her left, books filled the walls behind and to the right, while Adams, his diplomas behind him, sat before her, his legs crossed. There were no windows, though Alice knew the door in the corner led to an office with windows she'd glimpsed one afternoon.
He glanced to his right. "Sorry I'm running late. Bit of a crisis a while ago."
"They always look so desperate."
Adams nodded. "Yes, but Simon made substantial progress today. It was something of a breakthrough for him..."
Meet the Author
Dennis Danvers is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Circuit of Heaven, Wilderness, and Time and Time Again. He lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is currently at work on his next novel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Fact: since her puberty when growing up in the countryside, Alice White, now living in Richmond, Virginia, has taken the shape of a wolf every full moon. Her psychiatrist, Luther Adams, and her lover, Professor Erik Summers, are the only people in her adult life to whom Alice dares to reveal herself. They do not believe her until Debra, Erik's recently divorced wife, first beholds Alice turn into a wolf (and not attack her, though provoked) and Erik then sees a wolf fleeing his house. ***** Alice is very lonely, both as human and as occasional wolf. When she was a teen, a young man had tried to rape her. She involuntarily became the wolf and tore his throat out. But no one would believe her. Alice has strong sexual urges and regularly takes men for one-night stands. She is afraid, however, to love any man exclusively, lest he not believe her story and/or she tear him to pieces. All this changes when Erik moves into a house close to hers. ***** Dr Adams helps Alice White learn to control her shape changing by teaching her the art of self-hypnosis. ***** A brilliant geneticist friend convinces Erik that DNA research makes shape-shifting from one species to another plausible. Erik, once he accepts the facts, creates the hypothesis that lycanthropy is inherited. He then deduces that Alice has fled to Ontario where, Erik thinks, her shape-changing great aunt Ann conveniently lives next to the gigantic Algonquin Provincial Park, where several wolf packs live protected from mankind. ***** I refrain from telling more about the plot lest I spoil your reading pleasure, should you choose to open WILDERNESS. None of the characters is portrayed as having any religious beliefs whatsoever. All are this-worldly conditioned reflexes responding to their emotions, education and environment. ***** But there is provocative speculation about human identity. Is there a wolf lurking in everyman's psyche? Can we understand our need for human companionship better by studying identical twins (seen as cloned wholes in the novel) or by studying lovers (seen as bookends between a book, or as halves of a separated whole as in Plato's SYMPOSIUM) or some other relationship? ***** "What was Alice trying to understand about herself by imagining she was a wolf?" (Ch. 11). Both Dr Adams and Erik Summers had at first thought that Alice was imagining herself a wolf in order better to grasp something in her purely human but troubled soul. But grasp what? Later, both men accept that Alice is at times a real she-wolf and that she eventually develops the skill to abolish the wolf forever. Or to abolish the human and stay a wolf forever. Or to go back and forth at will between two species and their equally powerful needs. Read the 1991 book and see which option Alice choses. Or view the 1995 British movie of the same name and watch a different ending. -OOO-
The characters in this book are well thought out, and the struggles that they go through are believable. The author doesn't use the same old tired silver-bullets, have to get bit to be 'infected' routine, which is refreshing.