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October 09, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

LITTLEJOHN by Howard Owen (Vintage: $10; 230 pp.). The narrator of this quietly impressive debut novel, 82-year-old Littlejohn McCain, conceals his considerable intelligence and pain beneath the stoic mien of a simple dirt farmer. His divorced daughter notes wryly, "If last year had been a football game, God would have been called for unnecessary roughness." But Owen gradually reveals that the roughness has gone on for more than a single year. Littlejohn's life has been a hard one, marred by dyslexia, the death of his favorite brother and the cruelty of others, but also one that has been illuminated by love, albeit sporadically.

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