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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, February 2017 - Archibald Isaac Ferguson is the central character of 4 3 2 1. He's known as Archie by some and as Ferguson by others, and you get to know him from the time he is born through the multiple life outcomes explored by author Paul Auster. Through each nuanced version of his life, I became equally attached to every Archie and every Ferguson revealed to me. Living in and having grown up in Essex County, NJ, I know the towns and landmarks that Auster has set this novel in (my parents also brought me to the now-departed Grunnings Ice Cream parlor). So as I drive through these neighborhoods, I can imagine Archie walking down the street or playing baseball in a local school field. Listening to Paul Auster narrate is like having him in the seat next to me, with the open book on his lap as he calmly reads aloud. This is a book to be savored and allowed to unfold at its own beautiful pace. —Tricia, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

This program is narrated by—and includes a bonus interview with—the author.

Paul Auster's greatest, most heartbreaking and satisfying novel—a sweeping and surprising story of birthright and possibility, of love and of life itself: a masterpiece.

Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson's life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four identical Fergusons made of the same DNA, four boys who are the same boy, go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Athletic skills and sex lives and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Each Ferguson falls under the spell of the magnificent Amy Schneiderman, yet each Amy and each Ferguson have a relationship like no other. Meanwhile, listeners will take in each Ferguson's pleasures and ache from each Ferguson's pains, as the mortal plot of each Ferguson's life rushes on.

As inventive and dexterously constructed as anything Paul Auster has ever written, yet with a passion for realism and a great tenderness and fierce attachment to history and to life itself that listeners have never heard from Auster before. 4 3 2 1 is a marvelous and unforgettably affecting tour de force.

©2017 Paul Auster (P)2017 Macmillan Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Story

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Too much detail.

Obviously Auster is a a very talented writer. He brought the protagonist to life and I liked the multiple pathways. But so often, he had long lists of items or things, e.g., "Ferguson didn't like to eat vegetables - he didn't like cabbage, he didn't like eggplants, onions, celery, green beans, red peppers, bok choy, snap peas, zucchini, or avocado." Also, included long play-by-plays of baseball games from 4 decades ago. And then in the middle, a short story about shoes? Some editing would have been helpful.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Dreadful and dreary

For some reason I listened to this book all the way to the end, although I pretty much hated it. The character Ferguson is so unappealing and his adventures so ordinary and uninteresting that I barely made it through. I could not figure out what the point of the book was. Was it autobiographical? That is not clear. (spoiler) Why did 3 Fergusons have to die unnatural deaths?

The neverending love affairs of the different Fergusons also are entirely pointless. Why go through the trouble of describing all the different women's names and backgrounds if they disappear from the story one page later? It feels like filler material. And the homosexual activities of one of the Fergusons were just unbelievable, since they were so different from the other Fergusons.

Perhaps Ferguson was so unappealing because he is in every story highly self-absorbed. There is no indication that he cared about his friends and family or even has any emotions at all. His big love interest Amy disappears from his life in all 4 versions, because Ferguson can't be bothered to put any effort into the relationship.

The author read the novel himself on Audible, which is admirable, but he is just not a very good reader. I kept thinking that a more energetic performer would have made a big difference.

Unfortunately, I will not be reading any other Paul Auster books after this experience.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Really loved this novel

What made the experience of listening to 4 3 2 1 the most enjoyable?

I really like the fact that it was read by the author, so that I was able to hear the cadence in which it was meant to be heard.

What other book might you compare 4 3 2 1 to and why?

I would compare this book to City on Fire and A Little Lie both of which I would really recommend.

What about Paul Auster’s performance did you like?

I actually loved the performance but I did speed it up to 1.25x which resulted in a slight octave raise to the narrators voice. This made it a little easier to relate to him being a young man. He also did not attempt to fein female voices.

Any additional comments?

If you are to purchase this novel, be ready for the long haul. I listened to this over a period of 3 days and couldn't put it down. This was my first Paul Auster book and I definitely don't think it will be my last.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
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  • Story

Narration should be left to a professional

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Mechanical. I’ve always assumed that no one would be more qualified to transform text into speech than the author him/herself. I was clearly mistaken - this should be left to a professional. I reverted to the printed version on my Kindle after only an hour or two of listening to this otherwise excellent novel by Mr. Auster (have been a loyal and enthusiastic follower of his output since NY Trilogy). I prefer listening to the voice inside my head in the long run.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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A great work

There have been a number of door stopper epics that have come out over the past couple of years but this is the only one I would consider a classic. Auster manages to give a beautiful emotional rendering of lives lived and possible; history of mid- 20th century America and how it echoed in people's lives; a philosophical/ psychological work in how we construct a life. I will reread this many times ( I hope). The author's reading is pitch perfect.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

A tour de force

This book requires some serious investment in time and thought but oh what a return on that investment. I was sucked into the four lives of Ferguson. Loved it!

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Narration really is that bad

It's a shame because the story was good and the effort truly interesting. But it's hard to follow
4 story lines so this is a case where great narration would have been made the novel even greater. The monotone of the author reading his own work made it extra hard to distinguish between characters and story lines. Still, really interesting character(s) and the ending was very good.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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This is my life--by and about Paul Auster

Full disclosure. I did not finish the book. I could not finish the book. A clever premise: same people different lives caused by different events. After that, a real yawn. The time period over which the stories take place--growing up in the 1950s in New Jersey and the upper west side of NY--is obviously autobiographical and generally pretty boring. Aunt so and so and uncle so and so and cousin so and so. One is a college professor, another an appliance store owner, and the protagonist is a kid called Archie who goes to camp, makes out with girls, listens to music, reads books--you get the picture; this is my life as a Jewish kid growing up in urban and suburban NY. To make matters worse, Auster has enough of an ego that he thinks he can read his own book to you and probably thinks he reads it well. It kind of like having your uncle Ben read you bedtime stories. I kept on waiting for something to happen and nothing really ever did. One thing I found really annoying is that Auster regularly showed off his knowledge of music and literature by having his characters tick off all the the great composers or poets. We get it Paul, you are very clever. Lots of hype about this book, but cannot understand why.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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  • C
  • 03-31-17

Neat idea

Great story. Plodding at times. Narration left a bit to be desired. Overall, it was entertaining. Beware, it leans very left.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Poor choice of narrator

Where does 4 3 2 1 rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I think Paul Auster has a distinctive voice and I've enjoyed all his books. However, he sorely misjudged his talent when he decided to narrate his book for Audible. Way too often Audible ruins the listener experience by allowing the author with a Trump-size ego to narrate his or her own book. Because they're talented writers doesn't mean they're good performers.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Lacks talent as a narrator.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful