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Fiction Review    



The Valley of Light
by Terry Kay
Atria Books, 2003
Hardcover, $24.00 (224 pages)
ISBN: 0-7434-7594-1
  Many readers found a mystical element in To Dance with the White Dog, which Terry Kay always denies intentionally creating. However, in The Valley of Light, he admits there is a mystical element. In the author's notes to The Valley of Light, Terry Kay remarks on his lack of skills as a fisherman compared to that of his son. He goes on to describe a real life scene that inspired this novel.  His son, Scott, has a fishing ritual of kneeling down by the water then touching the surface. The son caught fish after fish, while his father didn't get a nibble using the same bait. Terry Kay saw this as a "gift" for his learning disabled son. Kay states that The Valley of Light is not a novel about fishing or his son, but "the mysticism of being gifted."

Noah Locke at age twenty-eight is a World War II veteran wandering the country in 1948. He was slower than the average man and had trouble managing his money, but he had a gift -- fishing. As a boy in Elbert County, Georgia, Noah's talent was known. When he was baptized, the Methodist minister placed his palm patting water on Noah's head and whispered, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." The boy felt a jolt and a realization of his life's mission.

His wanderings took him to a river in Kentucky, where he spent time fishing from a bridge with an older man by the name of Hoke Moore. He told Noah of a North Carolina lake called Chatuge, where the local school board sponsored a fishing contest each year.  The lake was near Bowerstown, which was known as "the Valley of Light." Hoke Moore also told him of another lake there that had no fish. The man who build it named the body of water the "Lake of Grief," which was fitting since the man died there. However, Hoke Moore claimed the Lake of Grief did possess a fish -- the largest bass he had ever seen. Moore never caught it, and no one believed that he saw it in the fishless lake.

Noah Locke went to Bowerstown to catch Moore's large bass and to enter the fishing contest at Chatuge. Moore had said the Valley of Light was a good place with good people. Noah discovered that to be true as he becomes involved with the locals in just a week. Bowerstown had lost many of its young men in World War II. This gentle town had a wounded spirit, but Noah brings new excitement into the community with his quiet demeanor and remarkable skill as a fisherman. People are drawn to him as much as fish are drawn to bait. They join him fishing, then brag to others of his skill. His quiet nature also draws out their inner thoughts -- pains and longings.

Noah inspires the sexual reawakening of Eleanor Cunningham, a widow whose husband returns from the war only to commit suicide at the Lake of Grief. Whitlow Mayfield is able to release his grief over the death of his son in the war. Taylor Bowers, a natural storyteller with an easy wit, is able to see more of Eleanor besides her skills as a cook.

Likewise, the town's gentle nature causes Noah to think of home and his younger brother, Travis, who is in a Georgia jail. Noah feels the call home and the end to his wandering.

Noah's battle with the large bass is not simply man vs. nature. At times the fish appears to be a demon drawing people to death at the Lake of Grief. In Noah's battle there are elements of good vs. evil. However, all things are not as they appear.    

The Valley of Light is a moving story about the heartache the human spirit can endure, and yet, resurrect itself.       

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews


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