"To Dance with the White Dog" Book Summary

by Maria D. Laso

"To Dance with the White Dog" is an award-winning 1990 novel by Terry Kay. At its center is a mysterious white dog that appears after Sam Peek's beloved wife of 57 years has died. This novel will appeal to readers who love a poetic use of language and to fans of Southern literature as well as to those who have had or lost a great love or worry too much about an aging parent. The book has parts that will make some readers laugh aloud but also will provoke tears for some.

The Story

"To Dance with the White Dog" is the story of a dog that mysteriously arrives at -- and won't leave -- the home of an octogenarian after the death of the man's wife. Sam's adult children are worried about him living alone and tend to hover over him uncomfortably. They mean well, but they are not helping. When the dog shows up, at first the kids think Sam is making it up, but when the man is in need, the dog "appears" to one of the daughters. White Dog helps the old man get on with the business of living while also allowing him to reminisce about the past, including his lost love and their lost youth. To Sam, the dog is a guardian that provides the comfort and warmth to survive his final years. The dog stays with Sam until just before the man's own death. The book is a gentle, moving story about an old man's final rites of passage, about family ties and about true love and the universal experience of grieving love lost. The character-driven story is inspired by the relationship of the author's father and mother,

The Author

Georgia native Terry Kay's fourth novel earned him the 1991 Outstanding Author of the Year Award from the Southeastern Library Association, and the Georgia Center for the Book named "To Dance with the White Dog" one of the 25 recommended books for all Georgians. Kay was raised on a Georgia farm, the eleventh of twelve children, and became a newspaperman at a Dekalb, Georgia, weekly before going to "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," where he became a noted film and theater critic. Kay left newspapers in 1973 for public relations and published his first novel in 1976. He had published three novels when he took up writing full-time in 1989. Kay has been married more than 50 years and has four children, ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He and his wife live in Athens, Georgia.

Beyond the Book

"To Dance with the White Dog," which is considered Terry Kay's seminal novel, was made into a 1993 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie with Jessica Tandy and real-life husband Hume Cronyn, who won a best actor Emmy for the role based on Kay's father. The production was the top-rated program of the 1993 TV season, with more than 33 million recorded viewers. In Japan, where more than 2 million copies of the book have been sold, a different Japanese-language movie was released in 2002. Kay's books have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Critical Acclaim

"The New York Times" called "To Dance with the White Dog" "memorable ... tender and bracing." The Reverend Desmond Tutu called it "a hauntingly beautiful story about love, family and relationships." Novelist Anne Rivers Siddons said the book is "what literature is -- or should be -- all about." The reviewer for the "Kansas City Star" said, "This is poetry pretending to be fiction." Twice the book was nominated for the ABBY, the American Booksellers' Book of the Year award. Kay is also the recipient of numerous awards for his body of work.

About the Author

Maria D. Laso is a trilingual writer-editor with more than 25 years experience; she now freelances, teaches and coaches writers. She publishes two 'zines written by and for young women and has a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from Northwestern University.