"The Fourth Hand"

In John Irving's latest novel, a TV reporter loses his left hand to a lion while reporting live from India.

Published October 4, 2001 8:00AM (EDT)

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 Irving's previous novels -- including "The World According to Garp," "A Prayer for Owen Meany" 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.

John Irving published his first novel at the age of 26. He has received awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation; he has won an O. Henry Award, a National Book Award and an Oscar.

Listen to an excerpt from "The Fourth Hand" (Random House Audio), read by actor Jason Culp.

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