A Dream of Wolves: A Novel

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9780060194321: A Dream of Wolves: A Novel

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.

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Review:

This is a novel destined to be erroneously shelved as a mystery because there's a murder in the first few pages. But that's only a device to set in motion a series of events in the life of 57-year-old Stuart Jordan, otherwise known as "Doc," an obstetrician who's also the medical examiner in Hubbard County, North Carolina. Doc exists in a kind of emotional limbo. His manic depressive wife Annabel is given to disappearing for long stretches of time, reappearing just as he is beginning to think about moving on with his life, which was shattered when their son died in an accident years before. Called to a murder scene where a silent woman sits nursing her baby amidst the blood and gore, Doc makes a promise to the accused woman that results in his taking temporary custody of the infant, against the wishes of her paternal family, a clan of petty thugs and criminals who nonetheless want the dead man's daughter. Doc is also embroiled in another emotional storm: his mistress, the D.A. who will be prosecuting the baby's mother for murder, is pressuring him to divorce Annabel, despite the fact that she's still married herself.

Much of the novel's ruminations involve Doc coming to terms with his guilt about his son's death, which is stimulated by the presence of the baby he's agreed to foster and with his realization that he can no longer protect Annabel from her own guilt about Will's death or rescue her from the ravages of mental illness. The choice is Doc's to make between the claims of the past and the promises of the future. The way in which Doc makes the choice reveals author Michael White as a writer of uncommon psychological acuity. The Blue Ridge Mountains locale gives White a chance to show off his considerable skills at describing the terrain and landscape, emotional as well as geographical, of this rarely imagined region of the country, and his insights into the poverty-scarred lives of many of its inhabitants are penetrating rather than patronizing. Minor characters are handled competently, except for Doc's girlfriend--her motivations are sometimes difficult to decipher. But this is a deeply felt, deftly written novel whose real mysteries are the secrets of the heart, not the criminal justice system. --Jane Adams

About the Author:

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.

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