Stuart Jordan, otherwise known as “Doc,” [is] 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.
“White is clearly in control of the many characters here, and he skillfully evokes the class tensions, racism, and anti-Yankee sentiment of this region.”
New York Times Book Review
“A Dream of Wolves recalls Faulkner’s ability to create a plausible imaginary universe in which painful moral choices do not depend on health, wealth, or position.”
Jacquelyn Mitchard, The Deep End of the Ocean
Questions for discussion: A Dream of Wolves
1. Doc Jordan is, as he himself admits and as his friend, Cecil Clegg says, a Yankee, an outsider in this insular world of mountain people. What makes him such an ideal narrator? Why didn’t the author choose a narrator who is from Hubbard County?
2. The Prologue begins with the following quote: “What I know of death is how hard we work to deserve it and how little we appreciate it when it finally comes.” Given what happens later in the novel, what is the significance of this statement?
3. The women in Doc’s life, his estranged wife Annabel and his new lover Bobbie, have very different personalities. What attracts Doc to each woman?
4. Babies as well as the process of childbearing is very important to the novel. Discuss the various ways babies and woman giving birth are significant to the story.
5. Doc Jordan is a man who is confronted by several moral, emotional, and legal choices. What are those choices and what are the repercussions of each?
6. There are several contradictions in Doc’s life. For example, his day job, as he calls it, is nurturing life, while his night job, that of part-time ME, is “working the other end of the line.” Discuss this and other contradictions in his life.
7. Several other women are important to Doc. Who are they and how are they significant to him? How do they affect him?
8. After Doc’s meeting with Leonard Blackfox, when he learns about the events of the night of the murder, there’s one thing that is still unclear to Doc. What is it and how does he handle it?
9. Dreams are an important device in the novel, starting right with the title. Discuss how dreams are used here.