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Publisher's Summary

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.

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.

©2001 by Garp Enterprises; (P)2001 Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“A rich and deeply moving tale . . . Vintage Irving: a story of two very disparate people, and the strange and unexpected ways we grow . . . Irving’s novels are perceptive and precise reflections of the world around us.” (The Washington Post Book World)
“A riveting entertainment and certainly one of the funniest novels of the year. The authoritative control of Irving’s storytelling has never been more impressive. . . . The delighted reader is powerless to look away.” (Chicago Sun-Times)
"Written with a new crispness, this fast-paced novel will do more than please Irving's numerous fans; it will garner him new ones." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.6 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
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Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Suzn F
  • Fletcher, VT, US
  • 08-31-08

WELL..... I LOVED IT

It seems that one either loves this book or hates it. For those who say they hated it and that "nothing ever happens", I suggest a lack of a sense of humor.
I just adored this story, the characters were quirky funny and I looked forward to each new chapter. So if you don't need to have your read be an exciting page turner at each moment, and if you possess a sense of humor, you'll just love this listen.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Strange but Fascinating

This is the first Irving book I've "read," and I enjoyed it a lot. The narrator, Jason Culp, is what sold me on listening in the first place, because I had greatly enjoyed his excellent narration of "Last Man Standing." I found "Fourth Hand" fascinating because, in a manner similar to "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues," it swirls in a vortex of sexuality without being dominated by it. I've actually known a man like the main character, so as improbable as he seems, he does exist out there. As a character, he may not have been as compelling without the gruesome mayhem aspect, but strangely, that aspect lends him credibility. I admit I fell into the trap of expecting a more profound outcome, thus almost gave it four stars instead of five. But then I realized it's character driven, rather than plot driven. As such, the characters find themselves in multiple laugh-out-loud situations. Bottom line: It's a fascinating ADULT listen, and it may very well be that my slight disappointment at the end had more to do with the fact that the story was over than the fact that it didnt end differently.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • M. Consol
  • Livermore, CA, United States
  • 03-19-05

Give John Irving a hand

Vintage John Irving. This book is the story of TV journalist Patrick Wallingford and puts on display the colorful and sympathetic characters, dazzling imagination and vibrant storylines that have become hallmarks of Irving's classic writing style. And the tale is read by a strong and expressive voice that lights the prose in neon lettering.

On the downside, The Fourth Hand does run out of gas about three-quarters through the book (a common problem with many novels), but the ride has already been so good to that point that you will easily forgive Irving for not ending on a stronger note.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Like a train wreck

I couldn't help looking, even though it was horrible. The only character that was the least bit likeable was the lion. At first I thought it was just the narrator that made all the women sound whiny and annoying, but then I realized all the women really WERE whiny and annoying. But the star didn't treat them so well either. Although the ending was weird, I was glad it was over.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

good listen

John Irving's books work particularly well as audiobooks because he's such a lovely storyteller. You won't necessarily find yourself glued to your MP3 player dying to see what happens next, but with every chapter, Irving invites you in once again with his by now typical characters and plots, so he's easy to pick up and put down and pick up again. If you like Irving, you'll like this a lot, though it's not his best book ever.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Bit of a bizarre story line

For some reason I haven't quite figured out, I couldn't stop listening. The characters are colorful, and I agree with the another reviewer regarding laughing out loud a few times, and the reader was good. But, a fascinating story line ... a guy with questionable morals losing his hand and falling in love with the widow of a donor hand ... had a lot more promise than the book ultimately delivers. There was probably and hour or more devoted to silly stuff not even relative to the meat of the story ... like a dog who liked to eat poop, and an owner who liked to sling dog poop with a lacrosse stick ... crazy, but, like I said, I couldn't stop listening.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Glenn
  • Raleigh, NC, USA
  • 01-02-07

American Male Humor

This is my favorite audio book and I have collected hundreds. This book has everything an American Male can ask for: the NFL, sex, John Irving's dry humor, etc. I strongly recommend it (for guys).

On the flipside, I don't believe females would find this book amusing.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sarah
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • 02-13-04

a good irving story

Is it as good as A Prayer for Owen Meany or A Widow for One Year? No, I don't think so. But it is good. It's worth reading and it's classic Irving. If you like classic John Irving, you'll enjoy the Fourth Hand.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not as good as others he has written

. . . but still worth it. Mostly because of how Irving writes. I love the innuendos and perspectives of his writing. I didn't love the main character of this story, but I didn't hate him either, which is, I suppose, exactly the type of character Irving was aiming for with Patrick Wallingford.

I really loved the story of the hand surgeon and his son and dog - and Irma.

My favorite Irving novel is still a toss-up between Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meanie.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

My Favorite John Irving - A very engaging story

A wonderful, engaging book. It's a great combination of entertainment and substance. His characters are so unique and lovely described you feel like you've known them all you life.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful