Noah Locke is blessed with the gift of fishing. Just by placing his hand on the surface of the water, he can recognize a good place to fish. People like to say that fish are "so eager to get on Noah's hook that they lined up in the water like tractors in a Fourth of July parade." A troubled World War II vet who returns home to find his parents dead, his brother in jail and a new family settled on the land where he spent his youth, Noah now spends his days rambling, doing odd jobs and fishing. Although he has always thought of himself as dumb because he can't read well or do math, Noah is gradually revealed to be a wise man in many ways.

In an author's note for his new novel, The Valley of Light, Terry Kay tells readers that his story is about "the mysticism of being gifted," the rare, mysterious ability to do one thing extremely well. As Noah's mother explains it, when God shortchanges you in one area, he overpays you somewhere else. Noah's special talent for fishing leads him to a small North Carolina community in an area known as the Valley of Light. There, in the Lake of Grief, a huge bass is said to lurk beneath the waters.

After his appearance in the valley, Noah's gift draws the attention of the locals who urge him to stay around for the town's annual fishing contest. Kay's small-town Southerners are a likable bunch, as innocent and unspoiled as the valley. While fishing and painting the general store, Noah begins to shed light on a number of the town's mysteries, old and new. Before a week has passed, he has become a legend as a fisherman and a friend who will be long remembered.

Like his classic To Dance With the White Dog, Kay's lyrical novel has the feel of a fable. This moving story, set in a simpler time, is so skillfully written that images of the valley and its people will remain in the mind's eye long after the final page is turned. Alice Pelland writes from Hillsborough, North Carolina.

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