Terry Kay, . . Atria, $24 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-7594-5

An enigmatic young man's preternatural gift for fishing changes the fabric of a rural North Carolina village during the post-WWII years in Kay's latest, a dreamy, poignant and richly written novel, marred somewhat by slow pacing. Noah Locke, a quiet, earnest veteran from Georgia, arrives in Bowerton, called by some the Valley of Light, and quickly becomes known for his fishing skills; the welcoming locals promptly invite him to participate in their upcoming fishing contest. He settles in, earning his keep as a housepainter, and soon meets Eleanor Cunningham, a comely young widow whose husband died, an apparent suicide, after coming home from the war. Their romance develops hesitantly, largely due to Noah's shyness, and while Kay pens some lovely scenes of rural life, the narrative doesn't move much faster. Before the contest commences, a young boy whom Noah had befriended goes missing and, after several agonizing days, Noah finds the body. He realizes that the boy died trying to catch a legendary fish that Noah himself had been chasing, after hearing about it from a benevolent but mysterious old man. Kay's lush descriptions form a shimmering backdrop to his gracefully drawn protagonists, but the romance is somewhat predictable, and the fishing subplot—the search for a mythic bass—does not fully sustain narrative tension. Kay (To Dance with a White Dog) comes close to generating suspense in the chapters describing the questionable conduct of Eleanor's husband following the war, but it's too bad there isn't a more compelling plot to anchor the graceful writing. (Sept.)