Three Legs in the Evening
A life carefully built can crumble in a moment, but what happens then? Sally B. plays it out as best she can.
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Three Legs in the Evening comes from the Sphinx's riddle in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, in which Oedipus is asked what creature walks on all fours in the morning, on two legs in the afternoon, and three in the evening. The answer, which Oedipus gets right, is Man, who crawls as a baby, walks upright as a man, and leans on a cane in his old age. Received wisdom, in other words, can be unreliable. Enter the story of Sally B, an over-sixty widow about to retire from her successful greeting card business in the aftermath of 9/11. She has a devoted family who relies on her wit and wisdom. But suddenly all hell breaks loose — her best friend dies, she falls into an open grave and she breaks her ankle. As this is happening, her children’s marital lives are unraveling, her grandchildren are in turmoil, and a man she has known from a time before comes back in her life. Taking place over a year, this is a story of love in a time of horror, as well as the profound and surprising ways in which everything Sally thought she knew changes. Sexy, funny and heart-wrenching, and much like Kent Haruf's Our Souls At Night, Three Legs in the Evening speaks about people running out of steam, running out of time, and finding solace and wisdom even in the finality of all that. A life carefully built can crumble in a moment, but what happens then? Sally B. plays it out as best she can.
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A moving, funny, and layered look into the life and mind of a charismatic woman grappling with mental deterioration and the loss of her life-partner. With ruthless honesty and keen observation Moskowitz sympathizes with her characters without ever veering into sentimentality. Readers will root for sharp-witted Sally from start to end and through all the unexpected avenues in between. ~ Anne McGrath, author, Best American Essays, Notable
Full disclosure: I had already read three of Bette Ann Moskowitz’s books when I dove into Three Legs in the Evening. As an established fan of her distinct humor and sharp-tongued dialogue, I had high expectations, and Moskowitz did not disappoint. Sally is a complex and likeable protagonist who has spent her life as a wordsmith and proud owner of a greeting card shop, comforting her family and customers alike with words of wisdom packed into sleek, memorable phrases meant to soothe, encourage and teach. But post-retirement life and widowhood has her losing her grip and her words as she strives to hold onto her safe and “temperate zone” – eschewing highs and lows – while the world is literally crumbling to ashes after 9/11. Despite insisting, “You can’t go east all your life and end up in the west,” she does just that – finding pleasure with a new lover, losing her once steadfast control, and walking head-first into the unknown. This is a story of a woman searching for something remarkably different while desperately trying to cling to parts of her past as she begins to cognitively decline. It’s about love, aging, bravery, and navigating complicated family ties. It’s raw and truthful. You will tear up and laugh out loud. Be sure to allot several hours of quiet time. You won’t be able to put this one down. ~ Myrna Haskell, executive editor of Sanctuary magazine