cover image Littlejohn


Howard Owen. Permanent Press (NY), $21.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-877946-18-9

In a subtle and intelligent first novel Owen, a sports editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch , tells a low-key story of rural life in North Carolina. At 82, Littlejohn McCain straddles two very different eras in the South: his father was a Confederate Army veteran, and his grandson is a pot-smoking rap music fan. Passively waiting for death as the novel begins, Littlejohn is prompted by the sudden arrival of his troubled grandson to examine his own life. It has been dotted with sorrows that include including his struggle with dyslexia, his accidental shooting of an older brother and his experience as a GI at the liberation of Buchenwald. Owen tells his story in three narrative voices, alternating among McCain, his English professor daughter and his grandson. Although the use the tri-part device of the three voices is at times too schematic, Littlejohn's simplicity predominates and carries the book along nicely. His straightforward, unadorned diction makes a refreshing contrast to the self-absorption of the other two narrators, and Owen cannily allows him to relate the book's most melodramatic episodes, thereby undercutting the material's potential excesses. Despite its slightly awkward structure and an overly sentimental depiction of intergenerational relationships, this is a pleasing debut. (Oct.)