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A Dream of WolvesReview - A Dream of Wolves
A Novel
by Michael C. White
Cliff Street Books, 2001
Review by Su Terry
Mar 9th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 10)

A Dream of Wolves by Michael C. White is a knock'em dead, good ol' boy, backwoods murder mystery. It is as hot as a blazing fire, homey as warm apple pie, and as hauntingly beautiful as the mist on the mountainside. This tale of murder, family feuds, local politics, and primitive medicine set in a small town high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is told in a gossipy folktale style that simply delighted this "Yankee" reviewer.

"Sits yourself down, grab a cup of that there joe, and let me tell you the story of Doc, that's Doctor Stuart Jordan. He's an imported Yankee, but folks here around are getting to trust him. He's our women doctor and also our medical examiner, too. He likes to say, he's like a good host, he sees 'um into the world, and he might as well sees 'um out. Well, Cecil, he's our sheriff, called Doc to go out on a call up in the hills just afore Christmas. It seems this Indian gal done shot her common law husband. (Cecil said it was a real mess.) The corpse, he was Roy Lee Pugh, of the Little Mexico Pughs. The whole lot of 'um are meaner than a bear in a trap and trouble from the git go. Their Pa ran moonshine during the Prohibition, now the sons, they modernized, they sell drugs and ladies. Well this Indian, her name is Rosa Littlefoot, made Doc promise to take care of her little one, while she's in jail. Doc being kind-hearted agreed, but Doc ain't young any more and he's also a bachelor to boot…well, sort of. When he came here, green from medical school, he up and married himself a local gal, Annabelle, but she has these spells and takes off. Last we heard, she's living a wild life down in Asheville…but she'll be back, she always comes back, and Doc, I told you, he's a kindly sort, always takes her back in. Doc also got a "lady friend." Now, you didn't hear this from me, but he's seeing that cute DA, Bobbie Tisdale. Her old man's no good, a real tomcat. He's got straying eyes and wandering fingers, you know what I mean? Miz' Bobby's prosecuting the Littlefoot case and this puts Doc in a real pickle, being substitute daddy and all. Also them Pughs hired a real sleazy lawyer to get custody of that papoose. Well, the trial is coming up any day now, and them city reporters are already snooping about. Should make for some hot fire works in town. Hey looky there, an ambulance just pulled up in front of the jail, now I wonder what that's all about. Well gotta go see what's up. Been nice talking to you, stop on back and I'll fill you on in."

The characters in this book are well rounded and painted with intricate shades of gray. Annabelle, Doc' bipolar wife, is presented in a roller coaster fashion that appropriately reflects her personality as loving and rational and at other times hate filled and manic. Bobbie is warm and passionate, yet often cold and razor sharp. I will admit a great deal of ambivalence and flip-flopping over the love triangle. Rosa is a product of the harsh realities of reservation life. The Pughs barrel through this novel like a hot-rodding Rebel yell.

A Dream of Wolves is very well written. White's description of the wild beauty of the mountains and the simple joys of country life is seductive. White's attention to detail made his novel completely accessible to me. The folksy story telling style invites the reader to become one with the people of this small town and to share in their gossip and long family histories. As each character is introduced the reader learns about the individuals role and place in society as set forth by their personal and familial history. This is so important to understanding how and why the characters behave and interact as they do in this close-knit microcosm. "Blood runs thick in these mountains" and "kinship don't run in straight lines" is sage advice for understanding this story. I recommend not skipping lightly over the family histories and local gossip sections.

Michael C. White is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Fairfield University. His first novel, A Brother's Blood, was a New York Times Notable Book for 1996, and his second title, The Blind Side of the Heart. His short stories have been widely published and have won the Advocate Newspapers Fiction Contest and the Permafrost Fiction contest, as well as being nominated for a Pushcart and a National Magazine Award. He lives in Massachusetts. A Dream of Wolves is his third novel.

A Dream of Wolves by Michael White is a well-written folksy tale of a local murder. Local Appalachian reviewers condemn this novel as filled with stereotypical "hillbillies" and demeaning to true "mountain folk". This may be true, but like Doc, I am not a mountain person, but a "Yank" born and bred, and "I" loved this story. Stack the wood high by the backdoor and settle into your favorite rocker, this one will keep the home fires burning late into the night.

© 2002 Su Terry


Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.


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