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Extended Audio Sample The Fourth Hand Audiobook, by John Irving Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (16,003 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Irving Narrator: Jason Culp Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2001 ISBN: 9780739300619
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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.


From the Hardcover edition. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • [A] THOROUGHLY SATISFYING LITERARY EXPERIENCE . . . Irving’s most compassionate and redemptive [novel] to date . . . [His] mastery of characterization is unequaled in American novelists of the day. St. Louis Post Dispatch
  • A BEAUTIFUL STORY ABOUT THE REDEMPTIVE POWER OF LOVE. The Denver Post
  • 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 BLEND OF SEXUAL FARCE, JOURNALISTIC SATIRE, AND TENDER LOVE STORY . . . From what at first seems bizarre, Irving builds the best kind of love story: an improbable one. Wallingford gets more than a transplanted hand; he begins to find his soul. USA Today
  • “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

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Milo | 2/19/2014

    " Wavered between creative/unique and a sheer sex romp. Clearly not his best. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marcie | 2/5/2014

    " Irving's imagination is just wild. Another fascinating and unusual story. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 flajol | 2/3/2014

    " I just couldn't empathise or even sympathise with the character at all. Disappointed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Keith Dickson | 2/2/2014

    " Not one of his best books. I felt that he seemed to lose the interesting off the wall character that the book began with, in the second half. Almost like he ran out of interest in the characters and just finished the story off. It it unusual for his characters to be introduced and then not developed further and left up in the air at the end. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelly | 1/31/2014

    " I really enjoyed reading The Fourth Hand. It would probably be one of my favorite John Irving books if it followed the main character through more of his life instead of just sticking to the period around losing his hand, getting a hand transplant, then re-losing his hand. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Noel | 1/24/2014

    " So your hand gets bitten off and eaten by a lion, and you are a candidate for a hand transplant. But the donor's widow wants visitation rights... Only John Irving could come up with a plot like this. Hilarious! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Harmony | 1/22/2014

    " I found this book to be weirdly sweet and funny. A quick and engaging read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elena | 1/13/2014

    " The development of characters is very intriguing!! Specially - the doctor Zajac. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Amy Wilcer | 1/12/2014

    " Irving is one of my favorite authors. This book is written with his usual zany combination of humor and sadness. It didn't resonate with me like some of his other novels have. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Corinne | 1/11/2014

    " A nice variation on the Irving theme. A great read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Keri | 1/8/2014

    " Maybe 3 stars would be more fair. This book wasn't terrible but it certainly wasn't great. It did get better as it went on which is why I kept at it. I wanted to like it more than I actually did. It was also a little weird for me I guess. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Howie Dodds | 1/3/2014

    " Irving never disappoints and he always comes up with intriguing storylines and plots. This is one of his most original books and well worth a read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jacquelyn Cyr | 12/13/2013

    " Really great novel - classic Irving. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sapphire | 12/6/2013

    " This was my first experience reading Irving and i enjoyed it immensely. However, like several reviewers have mentioned, i felt Irving could have done so much more with the characters he created. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alexandros Costas | 11/28/2013

    " I enjoyed this book very much. In fact, just thinking about some of the scenes and the way he has his characters live through them makes me smile. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jami | 11/17/2013

    " John Irving is the king of warm, tragic, darkly humorous stories. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this lovely tale of a man whose empty life is filled only after he suffers a very public loss. It is one man's journey to find a full, loving, wonderful life. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Amy Meadows | 9/24/2013

    " Much awaited but fell way short of the high standard I expect from my adored John Irving. I expect much fresher images and eclectic characterisations. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mila Clark | 7/24/2013

    " I love John Irving. He can do no wrong in his weird/obsessive/hyper-detailed way. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Zac | 6/19/2013

    " i appreciate an artist trying to stretch and try out new forms. but when an author has such a distinct voice and style and it works, i can't help but feel disappointed when they deviate. maybe i should re-read it and give it another shot? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Medea | 5/4/2013

    " Kinda quirky, but fun to read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary Harwell | 3/31/2013

    " As usual John Irving-entertaining characters in unusual situations. I enjoy his writing style. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Anna Engel | 12/5/2012

    " I'm over John Irving. That his characters - male and female - have so many casual sexual relationships bothers me. It also indicates that he lacks creativity in developing his characters. Yes, they're quirky, but they're essentially the same: shallow, flaky, and rather unlikeable. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel | 5/23/2012

    " I started this book forever and just picked it back up and finished it mostly to get it off my shelf. That being said, it was pretty good but definitely not Irving's best work. I find Irving to be a fun occasional read but this one was lacking something. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 caitlinmae | 4/1/2012

    " This isn't particularly epic Irving, at least not in the way that I felt inextricably romanced by Garp or Owen Meany. But his deliciously flawed characters are at once so bizarre and so human/familiar that you're happy just to take a ride with them. Great escapism for the pre-finals crunch. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Annalee | 3/7/2012

    " 3.5 if I had the choice. It's not as convoluted or involving as some of his other novels, but I enjoyed it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Allyson | 11/13/2011

    " This book is awesome although I seem to have lost it, otherwise I would definitely read it again. John Irving seems to have some recurring themes in his novels...one of which is adultry "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 thomas | 9/23/2011

    " Wow. What a terrible book. I read this a while ago and all I can remember is that I hated it. I have a 100 page rule but based on Irving's reputation I kept waiting for it to get better. It didn't. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Michele | 5/13/2011

    " I enjoyed the wrting style, but the book went nowhere. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lori | 4/3/2011

    " Entertaining ... an American story with a happy ending. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Aj | 3/4/2011

    " Disappointing but Irving is nevertheless an enjoyable read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 William | 2/27/2011

    " I like the scene where they go to the Packers game. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Susan | 2/26/2011

    " Not at all up to his usual work. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janie | 2/25/2011

    " I enjoy Irving's books, I'm working my way through his writings. This story started out really good, but I couldn't get settled into it the way I have done with some of his other stories "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Natalie | 2/24/2011

    " Interesting beginning and great writing, but the story trails off at the end. I had to fight against the urge to just send it back to the library. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sara | 2/23/2011

    " typical Irving humor. still like Owen Meany best. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elizabethr | 2/22/2011

    " The last 100 pages were beautiful. Too bad you have to go through so much hoopla to get there! The characters weren't very likable—they were caricatures of themselves—until that last section. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carole | 2/19/2011

    " This read of ok, but glad when it was over. The subject matter just didn't capture my interest. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cathie | 2/7/2011

    " John Irving can take the most depressing, odd situation and make it somehow inspiring. Well, indirectly inspiring. In any case, I loved this odd little book. And how appropriate that I finished it on the night the Green Bay Packers won the Superbowl. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Inna | 2/7/2011

    " Disappointing considering how much I loved Garp and Cider House "

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About the Author
Author John Irving

John Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp, which became an international bestseller. In 1992, he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules. In 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His novels have been translated into thirty-five languages.

About the Narrator

Jason Culp has been an actor since he was ten years old. He was featured on television in Days of Our Lives and General Hospital, and in the cult film Skinheads. He has narrated a number of audiobooks and has won two AudioFile Earphones Awards.