LITTLEJOHN by Howard Owen


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An 82-year-old North Carolina farmer tries to accept his past--in a quiet, tender, and moving first novel. Widower Littlejohn McCain sees no point in living any longer. His grown daughter in Virginia doesn't need him; his senses are failing. But he can't commit suicide: God would never forgive him, and what he most wants is forgiveness. He goes out in the midday sun hoping that ""the monkey""--heatstroke--will get him, and while he waits, reviews his life. From this seemingly conventional setup emerges an engaging memoir of a moral, thoughtful man who tried to be good and yet transgressed in ways he can scarcely comprehend: he killed his brother Lafe in a childhood accident--the ramifications of which become clear only at the end of the novel--and unwittingly failed people who counted on him, including his own son. In rural speech that's evocative and never overdone, Littlejohn provides a vivid picture of a unique corner of North Carolina while recalling his early humiliations in the schoolroom; his lonely withdrawal into hard work; his first affair--at age 27--with a Lumbee Indian; his witnessing of concentration camps in WW II (which profoundly affected his attitude toward race); his marriage to much-loved Sara, who teaches him, at age 40, to read. Visiting grandson Justin narrates some interesting sections, but daughter Georgia's account of the breakup of her marriage and her travels in Europe with a lover seem an irrelevant and irritating interruption. Littlejohn is a good, imperfect man and, like this book, good company.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0679750010
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Permanent Press