Williams (Whipple's Castle, 1968; National Book Award-winning The Hair of Harold Roux, 1974; Tsuga's Children, 1977) returns to Leah, New Hampshire, to probe the sex-drenched stirrings of young love. It's the summer of '48. John Hearne, 21 and a veteran, glances out his bedroom window and finds the embodiment of sexual desirability in the form of Dory Perkins, the girl next door. Dory, 17. is high-school valedictorian, too poor--she claims--to even think of college. But she's secretly adored John for as long as she can remember. Within days, a relationship--complete with tempestuous sex and cautious expressions of confusion and love--has been launched. But John's off on a cross-country motorcycle trip and Dory's working for the summer as the manager of a nearby resort. They say goodbye for the summer, with vague promises to retest their love in the fall. John heads west and ends up in Tulaveda, California, where he finds his father, who had departed when John was little more than a toddler. The much dreamed-about dad turns out to be something of a flake. Renamed Oval Forrester, he's now the spiritual leader of the Church of the Science of the Way. He's also perfecting a process for freezing lima beans, caring for John's mongoloid half-sister Thelma and giving religious guidance to Bonnie, a dreamboat of a former actress who temporarily replaces Dory as John's sexual obsession. While John's busy making sense of all this, Dory's back in New Hampshire, running a hotel that seems most popular with former Nazis. When a whacked-out teen-Nazi murders Dory's little sister, Dory takes to her bed for weeks. It's only the return of John that wakes her up. Wedding bells to follow. Despite these somewhat antic goings-on, Williams serves up gentle, expansive portraits of his likable, ordinary protagonists. In all, a closely observed exploration of young-adult desire: Nostalgia crafted with a sure hand.