Read A Dream of Wolves by Michael C. White Free Online
Book Title: A Dream of Wolves|
The author of the book: Michael C. White
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 39.44 MB
Edition: William Morrow Paperbacks
Date of issue: March 5th 2002
ISBN 13: 9780060932367
Read full description of the books A Dream of Wolves:They said we were trash, said we were Briers.
They said, you are proud and independent.
They said, you are narrow-minded.
They said, you are right from the heart of America.
They said, you are the worst part of America.
They said, we ought to be more like you.
They, said, you ought to be more like us.
- The Brier’s Sermon” –Jim Wayne Miller
When I first heard about this novel, a friend told me that A Dream of Wolves, written by a former English instructor at Western Carolina University, was set in western North Carolina. Well, my curiosity was pricked, and I rushed out and found a copy. Before I had read thirty pages, the familiar contours of Jackson County began to appear beneath this novel’s fictional narrative. The Tuckamee (Tuckaseigee) river runs through Hubbard County (Jackson) and the town of Slade (Sylva) where a well-preserved courthouse and verdigris-coated Confederate solder keeps watch from a prominent hill above the town. The sweet stink of the Nantahala Paper Mill (My goodness, is that Jackson Paper?) drifts over the surrounding hills. The topography is slightly skewed, of course, and some of the region’s landmarks have been shifted and altered so that they may more accurately serve the author’s needs/ intent – whatever that may be.
Before I go too far with this review, perhaps I need to acknowledge
an obvious prerogative of fictional writers – one that is especially easy to forget when dealing with a novel that depicts life in what appears to be “my home town.” Dear Reader, this is a work of fiction – the author is under no obligation to conform to the restraints of factual data. He can lengthen the rivers, tinker with the demography, relocate churches (and Wal-mart) and redesign the economy if he wishes. A novelist can play God with his own creations. He can erase mountain ranges, and change the course of rivers. He can breathe life into a multitude of people who must laugh, sing, weep and die and his behest.
Now, if you are a native of this region and you decide to read A Dream of Wolves, I would like to recommend that you remind yourself of the aforementioned facts....frequently. I suggest that you silently chant a kind of mantra as you read: “This is a work of fiction.” When your hackles rise because the author is making your region and its inhabitants bleak, joyless, hostile and/or stupid and you begin muttering phrases like “Why, the nerve of the arrogant, presumptive #*%##.....,” repeat your mantra. “This is a work of fiction, thisisaworkof fictionthisisawork of.....”
The mantra may not work. Still, try not the shred the book and consign it to the garbage....yet. Plod onward like a good soldier.
With that said, let us now attempt a rational and unbiased response to the plot of A Dream of Wolves, which begins with Dr. Stuart Jordan, a 57- year-old, transplanted Yankee who has spent the past thirty years in Hubbard County. Dr. Jordan has bad dreams, or more accurately, he is visited by a dream within a dream in which Will, his five-year-old son, has awakened from a nightmare. He is being pursued by wolves. In Jordan’s dream, his frightened son enters his parent’s dark bedroom and asks if he may sleep between Jordan and his wife, Annabel. Each time the dream occurs, Jordan awakes to find himself alone. Will has been dead for fourteen years, and Anabel, a victim of manic depression is gone – again.
Michael White creates a painful and poignant portrait of Annabel Jordan, an unstable woman driven into madness by guilt. Fourteen years ago, her momentary neglect of her son resulted in his death – he wandered into the forests near the Blue Ridge Parkway, became lost and froze to death.
Now, the grieving mother wanders the streets of Charlotte, Greenville and Asheville, trying to forget, sleeping in bus stations and surviving on part-time jobs. Suicidal and manic, she seems to be sliding into a dark world of addiction, violence and compulsory treatment. Stuart Jordan has come to dread the phone call or the knock on the door – either Annabel is in jail or in need of money. Sometimes, it is Annabel herself, exhausted and sick saying, “Stuart, would you let me spend the night?”
Although Jordan seems to care for his unstable wife, fourteen years of anxiety and frustration have taken their toll. Having lost both his son and his wife, he searches for distractions. In addition to his practice, he becomes the ME for the town of Slade and finds himself accompanying the local law officials to grim scenes of death in Cashiers, Cherokee and Addie – car accidents, drownings and murders. By day, he brings life into being (OB-GYN), and at night he bears witness to life’s leave-taking.. In addition, he has drifted into an affair with Bobbie Teasdale, Slade’s Assistant D.A. (She is married, but unhappy.) Despite the lovers’ precautions, (they shack up in Georgia motels) their affair is common knowledge in Slade.
Then comes the night that Dr. Jordan finds himself in a trailer in Little Mexico (Little Canada) where a Cherokee woman, Rosa Littlefoot has apparently shot-gunned Roy Lee Pugh. Before the night is over, Jordan has reluctantly accepted responsibility for Rosa’s infant daughter. This tiny baby becomes the catalyst that drastically alters Jordan’s life as well as that of Annabel, Bobbie Teasdale, the Pughs and a host of Slade inhabitants. The need to nurture and defend little Maria Littlefoot seems to galvanize and quicken everyone who comes in contact with her.
A Dream of Wolves is most successful in the passages dealing with
Annabel’s illness. Anyone who has been touched by the plight of manic-depressives will find this hapless woman’s torment moving and evocative.
Other themes prove less appealing. Jordan’s procrastination becomes irksome as he quibbles and debates. Shall he abandon his doomed wife?
Should he marry the green-eyed, firm-breasted, YOUNG, Bobbie? Well,
since sultry, carnal blondes seem to abound in fiction, and are as scarce as
white crows in the real world of aging males, I found this relationship to be
the least credible aspect of the novel. At least, this aging male reviewer has
found young, hedonistic blondes with a penchant for “mature males” to be
mythical. However, hope springs eternal....
Now, we come to the real issue in this novel: the depiction of mountain people. While the author may be granted considerable license in
altering details for the sake of drama and suspense (Yes, part of this novel is a murder mystery), I feel that he is ethically bound to avoid resorting to stereotypes – or augmenting them. Not only are the descriptions of mountain people frequently demeaning, they are hypocritically so. Time and again, the narrator of A Dream of Wolves (Dr. Jordan) assures us that he has respect and admiration for his neighbors, and he speaks from thirty years of observation. (I understand that Michael White taught for three years at WCU). He speaks of “good neighbors” who are quick to offer help, yet at heart Dr. Jordan does not like us. The community is narrow-minded, the landed gentry in the big houses are pretentious and greedy and the clannish, backward residents of Little Mexico are inbred and dangerous...or as Jordan so succinctly puts it, “almost genetically prone to violence.” Also, we have all traded our heritage for “a piece of the American pie.”
It would be foolish to deny that there is some truth in White’s depictions. (I recognized some of the crimes as well as a couple of the doctors.) The author’s error is not the creation of total falsehood, but his
tendency to intensify and expand on an actual negative aspect. His scathing description of Cherokee is not totally false but it is almost comically exaggerated. The real problems of Hubbard County, such as drugs, crime and poverty become caricatures. Used needles litter the gutters and doorways of Mill Street and large groups of homeless drift through the back alleys of Slade like lost souls in purgatory. White divides the population of Hubbard County into three classes, all of them unappealing. Slade is a goulash of greed, poverty and ignorance where even the college-educated say “fy-on” for “fine,” “Po-lice” for “police” and “bidness” for “business.” The use of the provocative word, “hillbilly” abounds.
Let me conclude with a few quotes. These are the families “up in the hollers” “...they get drunk and shoot each other or beat up their wives or impregnate their cousins or nieces. Their raw-boned kids take a bus an hour to school and arrive with head lice and ears set low on their skulls, and are teased by the townies or the professors’ kids; they drop out of school in the ninth grade because their daddies promised them a Firebird or because they got some girl knocked up.” There is some truth in this judgment, but White never acknowledges the exceptions. Jordan gleefully describes the local radio station in Slade: “At exactly 11:30 every morning, the local radio station broadcasts hymns and sermons by the fiery Rev. L. B. Stevens, who chastised people both for sins actually committed and for those only imagined; while at noon, accompanied by creepy organ music, L. B. recited eulogies for our dearly departed brethren.....”
Well, enough. Suffice it to say that Michael C. White has done us an injustice. In a place where natural beauty abounds and our traditional culture thrives, he has painfully, carefully exhibited our warts, our blighted lives and our imperfections. A novelist who has had three works reviewed in the New York Times, has seen fit to judge us, and he has found us woefully flawed. A writer with his gifts could have celebrated us, but chose to parody us instead.
Well, as my grandmother would have said, “Fie on thee, Michael White. I cast thee out.” And so I do, carrying your book by its outer edges, I consign you to sleep with the coffee grounds and egg shells. Se-lah.
And remember, this is truly a work of fiction.
Read information about the authorAuthor of Resting Places
One woman’s journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening
After receiving the devastating news of her son’s death, Elizabeth ekes out a lonely and strained relationship with her husband, Zach. While he takes comfort in support groups, Elizabeth becomes withdrawn and seeks solace from the only thing that helps her forget: alcohol. A chance meeting with a man on the side of the road spurs her to travel cross-country to the site of her son’s death in the hope of understanding what had happened.
During the trip, she undergoes a transformation, one which allows her to confront the demons of her past but also to acknowledge the possibilities of her future. Through the wisdom and kindness of a man she meets along the way, she finds a means not only of dealing with her pain and her guilt, but of opening herself to the redemptive power of love, and of faith in something. Resting Places is an inspiring, upbeat story, a tale of real faith in what we cannot see except with our hearts, a novel that follows a character from despair to hope, from despondency to renewal.
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