Likely Stories : Three-Legged Horse, by Ann Hood

Oct 7, 2021

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Ann Hood’s first novel, Three-Legged Horse is one I have treasured since I first read it in 1989 when I met her at an American Library Association meeting.  She graciously signed my copy.  Ann is an American novelist and short Story writer.  She is the author of fourteen novels, four memoirs, a short story collection, as well as other favorites of mine, The Italian Wife and The Obituary Writer.


Ann wrote, “For Abby, it was not the applause that she loved.  Or the way that the audiences seemed to focus on her whenever she played her violin.  In fact, those things embarrassed her.  The things she loved was the playing.  The feel of the wood under her chin, the instant when the bow first touched the strings, and the music began.” (1).

To continue, Ann wrote, “Abby tucked her violin under her chin.  For an instant, her eyes settled on her twelve-year-old-daughter, Hannah, who sat at a table sipping root beer.  She drank daintily, with one pinkie extended straight out. [   ] Hannah used to be her biggest fan, but since she started junior high, she tries to be cool, aloof.  Abby wished Hannah would look up, give her a smile” (2).

“[Abby] had been a performer forever, but still the attention embarrassed he.  One of her earliest memories was plucking out ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’ on the violin at Sardi’s after her parents’ opening night on Broadway in The Little Foxes.  She remembered being hoisted onto a table draped in linen and littered with wine glasses and ashtrays, the rustling of her petticoats as she moved the violin into position, her mother, Deirdre, urging her on, Calling, ‘That’s my kid up there! Come on, kiddo.  Knock ‘em dead.’  And she remembered the way all the grownups had stopped talking when she played, how everyone had stopped to stare at her, and how right after she’d finished, she burst into tears” (3).

Years later, “Hannah was used to men looking at her mother.  Personally, she didn’t think Abby was all that pretty.  A few years ago, when Hannah was just a kid, he mother had seemed like an angel, all smooth porcelain skin and fine blond hair.  But now, when Hannah compared Abby to other mothers, she felt a little embarrassed. // Abby didn’t even try to look presentable.  She was always wearing old, faded dresses from years ago with too-long hems and missing buttons.  If she ever replaced a button, it was never with one that matched the others.  She kept an old mayonnaise jar full of odd buttons on her dresser and would just pull one out at random and sew it on a coat or a blouse.  She even did that to Hannah’s clothes, which Hannah used to think was cute but now that she was in junior high found mortifying” (13-14).

The lives of these two women focus on the changes they undergo.  Three-Legged Horse by Ann Hood is a somewhat sad story as their lives cross.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!