The Fourth Hand: A Novel

Unabridged Audiobook

Written By: John Irving

Narrated By: Jason Culp

Publisher: Random House (Audio)

Date: July 2001

Duration: 11 hours 18 minutes


The Fourth Hand asks an interesting question: "How can anyone identify a dream of the future?" The answer: "Destiny is not imaginable, except in dreams or to those in love."

While reporting a story from India, a New York television journalist has his left hand eaten by a lion; millions of TV viewers witness the accident. In Boston, a renowned hand surgeon awaits the opportunity to perform the nation's first hand transplant; meanwhile, in the distracting aftermath of an acrimonious divorce, the surgeon is seduced by his housekeeper. A married woman in Wisconsin wants to give the one-handed reporter her husband's left hand-that is, after her husband dies. But the husband is alive, relatively young, and healthy.

This is how John Irving's tenth novel begins; it seems, at first, to be a comedy, perhaps a satire, almost certainly a sexual farce. Yet, in the end, The Fourth Hand is as realistic and emotionally moving as any of Mr. Irving's previous novels-including The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and A Widow for One Year-or his Oscar-winning screenplay of The Cider House Rules.

The Fourth Hand is characteristic of John Irving's seamless storytelling and further explores some of the author's recurring themes-loss, grief, love as redemption. But this novel also breaks new ground; it offers a penetrating look at the power of second chances and the will to change.


  • Debbie

    Disgusting and awful. Irving can be excellent at times (A Prayer for Owen Meany, Ciderhouse Rules, Garp for example), BUT he can also dwell in the gutter with endless boring pondering of wet dreams and grotesque sexual encounters. Do not read.

  • Anonymous

    As an aspiring writer, I find John Irving and interesting study in the joys and curses of success. Garp, Owen Meany and Cider House Rules are -- and you may thing I'm overstating this -- classics in late 20th century literature. I was pleased to see Owen Meany on the "School Summer Reading" shelf at my local bookstore. That said, Irving's other works all suffer from comparison to these three landmarks. Widow for One Year and The Fourth Hand are both commendable works of fiction. Irving's mixture of unique characters and biting situations are quite adept. This book is a "strong recommend," but will inevitably suffer by comparison. Better for readers to evaluate on it on its own merits.

  • Leslie Hauser

    Even as far as odd John Irving books go, this one was really, really odd. A fairly engrossing book, with some witty jabs at modern pop culture. The book focuses on Patrick Wallingford, a reporter and later anchor of a CNN-like news network who becomes known as "The Lion Guy" because of an unfortunate incident with a lion while on film. Like many other Irving novels, the story becomes so twisty and turny that it's hard to share the story without sounding like a madwoman. Intriguing, but not great overall.

Fourth Hand: A Novel

by John Irving

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Fourth Hand: A Novel, John Irving