Cover image for A dream of wolves : a novel
A dream of wolves : a novel
White, Michael C.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Cliff Street Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
xi, 386 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Central Library

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Author of the critically acclaimed novels, A Brother's Blood and The Blind Side of the Heart, Michael C. White weaves a brilliant tale of one man's struggle to reconcile the beckoning nostalgia of the past with the allure of a hopeful future, while carving out a livable niche in the present.

A transplanted Yankee, Dr. Stuart Jordan has settled amidst the rugged beauty of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. He lives a quiet, small-town life where locals call him "Doc." By day Doe runs an OB/GYN practice, delivering babies into the world and warmly tending to their mothers, but by night he moonlights as the town's medical examiner, as he puts it, "working the other end of the line." Since the tragic death of his son fourteen years earlier, Doe has been willing to lose himself in the daily rhythms of his job and of the mountains and its people. Yet he can't let go of the past, a past which includes Annabel, his estranged, mentally ill wife. Driven by drugs, alcohol, and her own raging demons, she floats in and out of his life like a drifter, wreaking havoc and leaving nothing but painful memories each time she disappears. Knowing that divorce would be the best answer for both of them, Doc, however, can never quite bring himself to abandon the woman he once so dearly loved. Instead, he loses himself in his work, hoping to numb his pain.

But his quiet life is about to be rudely jolted. One night he is called to the scene of a brutal murder and unknowingly comes across three people who will forever change his fate: Rosa Littlefoot, a young Native American woman who has gunned down her abusive lover; her victim, Roy Lee Pugh, a white man related to a violent hill-dwelling clan; and their baby daughter, Maria. Facing arrest and separation from her daughter, Rosa refuses to hand over her baby safely until she extracts a promise from Doe to see to it that her child is cared for while she's in jail. He agrees for the child's sake. With this one promise, Doe is slowly but forcefully drawn into a tangled web of lives ripe with conflict and passion -- those of Rosa and her baby, the backwoods Pugh clan, and Bobbie Tisdale, the local D.A., a beautiful woman who has recently become Doe's lover. There is also the secret Rosa shares with no one. Finally, there is the haunting presence of Annabel. Suddenly thrust into this world of treachery, deceit, and love, Doe finds his heart struggling to embrace an uncertain future and realizes he must fight the battle he has been avoiding all these years.

At times charmingly sweet, at times tensely thrilling, and always emotionally riveting, A Dream of Wolves is a powerful and engaging novel that winds and weaves its way through the bitter struggles and uplifting victories of life.

Author Notes

Michael C. White is a professor of English, as well as, the founder and director of the low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program at Fairfield University.

He is the founding editor of the annual fiction anthology American Fiction, as well as Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose.

In addition to a collection of shorts stories, entitled Marked Men, White has written numerous novels. They include: The Garden of Martyrs, A Brother's Blood, Beautiful Assassin, Soul Catcher, A Dream of Wolves and The Blind Side of the Heart.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Dr. Stuart Jordan, White's hero-narrator, works both ends of the life cycle. As an OB-GYN, he ushers people in. As a part-time medical examiner, he sees them out. He fulfills this double role, to his own bemusement, as a transplanted Yankee in Hubbard County, North Carolina, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This dual perspective and the meditations it awakens on what goes right and what went wrong inform the novel. So does Jordan's grief over his five-year-old son, who died 14 years ago. This mystery of character is jump-started with a "pronounce death" call one night. Jordan finds Roy Lee Pugh, a member of a criminal clan in the hills, dead from two shotgun wounds; his Native American wife sits stolidly by, nursing her baby. His promise to the woman, that he'll take care of the baby, draws him into longstanding feuds, bad blood, and criminal enterprise--and into another view on his own life. Jordan's carefully constructed life of habit, punctuated by figuring out the cause of death, which appeals to his love for the mathematical elegance of causes and helps make death manageable, is blown apart by the shotgun blasts of the Pugh homicide. Jordan's is the kind of wise, flawed narrator's voice you want to keep listening to; his takes on Appalachia are eye-opening; his takes on human nature, wrenching. --Connie Fletcher

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 murdererDthe deceased's common-law wife, RosaDand 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 ageDhe's 50Dhis 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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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.ÄNancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



A Dream of Wolves 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. Excerpted from All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.