It’s Throwback Thursday! Twenty years ago this month, The Fourth Hand by John Irving was first published.
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 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.