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The Fourth Hand

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3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  20,109 ratings  ·  784 reviews
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. What happens next is the subject of Irving's tenth novel, which offers a penetrating look at the power of second chances and the will to change.
Hardcover, 316 pages
Published July 3rd 2001 by Random House (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stephanie "Jedigal"
John Irving's characters are often quirky to say the least. Normally they draw one in. Irving's typical forays into the minds of the odd but believable individuals who populate his stories are usually irresistably intriguing. I have often had a difficult time putting an Irving novel down.

This novel for some reason does not work. The characters did not interest me, and I neither liked nor disliked most of them. The plot drags on. I often considered putting the book down for good, and not finishi
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Rea
For the standard that is John Irving, this book was so disappointing. I don't think he had much of a story and was depending on his characteristic literary traits to hold the story together, but unfortunately it backfired and instead of sustaining a mediocre story, turned all the things I loved about him into clichés and far-stretched half baked ideas. Do not judge Irving by this book, he is so much better than this!
J
This story, with all its unlikely characters and the attendant twists and turns, has John Irving's mark all over it. John Irving is with out a doubt, my favorite living American writer. It therefore comes as no surprise that I would find this book enjoyable.

For me, the characters are believable and their stories come together to reveal the intricacies that tie them all to one another. Patrick Wallingford is a sympathetic enough character in that his initial shallowness makes him someone whom I
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Michael
While at work on the massive tome that became Until I Find You, John Irving took a break to work on the comedic and relatively short novel, The Fourth Hand. Irving began it hoping it would be his first comedy since The Water-Method Man.

The Fourth Hand is quite funny, especially in the earlier chapters, but it ends up growing out of its original intentions; by the end, you're not reading a comedy. It's not a sad book, but it is bittersweet in a way that will be familiar to John Irving fans.

Patr
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Schmacko
On John Irving, I have six thoughts:
1. He always seems to have a discombobulated male as his central character, Garp, the narrator in A Prayer for Owen Meany, the dad in The Hotel New Hampshire, and the young orphan in The Cider House Rules. They can be clueless, happy-go-lucky, confused, aimless, grief-stricken…
2. There is also always some intriguing but slightly distant female.
3. Irving loves the little bits of weirdness, like the woman in the bear costume in The Hotel New Hampshire.
4. Irving
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Allison
It pains me, LITERALLY PAINS ME, to give a John Irving novel anything less than 4 stars. He is among my favorite living authors, and I typically wholeheartedly enjoy the stories he tells and the vivid characters he creates. But this one... well, it just fell flat for me. I could not relate to or care about any of the characters, the storyline was rather blah, and while I truly truly love him, Irving's writing STYLE and "voice" aren't visual music for me the way Nicole Krauss or Marianne Wiggins ...more
Caroline
This novel follows the highlights and troughs in the life of Patrick Wallingford, a journalist working for a trashy 24-hour TV news station.

Whilst covering a story in India, he gets one of his hands bitten off by a circus lion. A surgeon shows interest in trying a hand transplant, and shortly after this Doris Clausen, a newly widowed woman who saw the lion episode on television, offers one of her husband's hands for the operation....on the condition she can have visiting rights to see the hand
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Zack Brown
I just finished reading John Irving’s The Fourth Hand. While it is worth noting that I have previously read both The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany, found each to be better than The Fourth Hand, and recommend that you read both, The Fourth Hand is especially significant today--two days after the Virginia Tech shooting.

The Fourth Hand is a story that follows a cad of a television field reporter who loses his left hand to an Indian circus lion while on an assignment. The repo
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Robert Day
For to have laboured for many years and to have fashioned a small brown cylindrical, tapered object has got to be much more disappointing, and confusing to an author than it can ever be to me. All I've lost is 2 days of the opportunity to read something better. He has lost so much more.

Witness any movie, any person walking down the street, any building, anything and you see something that someone has spent years and tears fashioning and moulding and creating. That young girl you passed on the st
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Keith
Each time I read an Irving novel my response is always the same; how can I describe his writing style? How do I explain it to myself? First, his humor, that in the beginning seems so cynical. Perhaps it's social satire, or maybe farce is a better term. However it's described, his characters slowly become real, textured individuals that I actually begin to empathize with and care about. Patrick Wallingford is an on-camera reporter for a twenty-four hour, sensationalist news network, with a less t ...more
Sandy
The Fourth Hand, John Irivings 2004 bestseller, is the story of a talking head who works for a TV version of the National Enquirer. What is sordid, outrageous, and not really worthy of our attention is the stuff of the network for which Patrick Wallingford reports.

His own maiming while by a lion in India while he is reporting a story about the circus industry makes him the subject of his own network's reporting. He becomes The Lion Guy, One-Hand.

He also becomes the subject of a medical experimen
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Ruthie
I read A Prayer For Owen Meany last year and loved it so much that I wanted to read more of this amazing author John Irving.

The Fourth Hand was not what I expected. I'm not sure why I wasn't prepared for it, considering that the words "sexual farce" were written in the summary on the front flap of the book. The best way I know to describe this novel is: a mix of John Steinback and Fifty Shades of Grey. (Don't panic, friends - I haven't read and don't intend to read Fifty Shades. I've heard enoug
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Hilary G
Ex Bookworm group review:

I mentioned in my review reminder that I was reading this book for the second time because I had read it on holiday and couldn't remember anything about it. As I have re-read the first hundred pages or so, I've come to the realisation that I still won't remember that much about it because it isn't really about anything – or not anything I care about, anyway.

My biggest problem with the book is that it just tries too damn hard, to be clever and funny and, I suppose, Irving
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David Wrubel
I will admit to being a huge fan of Irving's, and though this is not one of his best known works at all, it is sneaky good and its themes seem to keep popping up when you least expect it.

The Plot: In India, an American journalist accidentally has his left hand is eaten by a lion. Sounds contrived, but it works. And back in the States, a famous surgeon is chomping at the bit for the chance to perform the nation's first hand transplant. And he does, with great success.

Here comes the real plot twis
...more
Heather
Too quirky, the writing seem forced, and in general, a slapdash effort. I have enjoyed every other Irving book I've read - so this was a big disappointment. I understand he wrote this book while also writing "until I found you". It seemed like he had a somewhat formed idea for a book and threw a loose story around it with unlike able characters.
Sarah


okay not much a review, I love Irving but couldn't finish this book. My review is based on that it is perfect for holding my coffee mug in the morning, every morning. So a very good book for that. The hand missing and weird relationship with the woman and then the traveling back and forth and whatnot? I will have to revisit this at a later time but for now there are way too many books to get through. The book will remain a prop for my beloved coffee until further notice.
Dark-Draco
At first, this book had me confused and a little disbelieving, but once I decided to take the author's style as being a way to openly laugh at his own characters, I immediately got on with it better. And laugh you kind of have to. With the main character only finding meaning in life AFTER his hand is bitten off by a lion, and with the widow of a man who'd donated his hand for transplant, you have to laugh at the slight absurdity of it all.

Unfortunately, I always want to compare any of Irving's b
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Katie Rizzo
I love John Irving. I hate this book. This seems to be a general consensus among all John Irving fans. The worst part is that I chose this book to introduce my husband to John Irving, so now he thinks I'm crazy, even though I keep insisting that this book doesn't even hold a candle to A Prayer For Owen Meany, Hotel New Hampshire, or The World According to Garp. Sure, there are the expected Irving elements: the basic quirky characters, the awkwardly realistic awkward sex scenes, the obligatory Ge ...more
Dave Kramer
This is the first book I've read by John Irving, and I expected so much more. His reputation is such that I'll give him another try, but this seemed awfully amateurish (albeit with occasional moments of golden prose) and I wonder whether he's reached the stature that he can overrule any editor's suggestions. If so, bad move, John.

The story follows a TV journalist for a sensationalist TV News network who loses his hand to a lion while the camera is rolling. He has an opportunity to undergo the fi
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Gila
this did fine for reading while battling pneumonia and fever. i just kept saying, well THAT's ridiculous, and that's offensive, and that's pointless, but bumbled along. i suppose john irving could make a sourdough recipe into a good enough rambling story, but i'd rather have the bread. wait. i'm obviously still sick. stop typing. ok.
Keith Dickson
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.
A
John Irving can meander and digress as well as any writer. He does far too much of it in this book. It’s a series of interludes with a rather patchy central theme – a handsome nonentity without much personality who eventually begins to grow up.
Irving is a good writer and there are, as always in his books, some well-turned phrases, eccentric characters and funny moments. The whole thing doesn’t seem to hang together very well, though. It’s as if Irving came up with an idea for a character, like t
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Corielle
I don't think I've ever felt so "meh" after a John Irving book. But this was definitely one that I finished, set down and thought "Well, okay then" rather than continuing to mull the story over for a week or two while everything settled in my brain. Instead, I finished this book a week ago and I'm struggling to remember what it was even about. John Irving books, to be fair, are rarely "about" anything, but that's okay because they're driven by fascinating characters in absurd situations. The Fou ...more
Amanda
I rank several of Irving's other novels among my favorite -- he spins a great yarn. But something about this one just didn't grab me. It's strange, because now that I am no longer reading it, I kind of miss reading it. Irving is that kind of writer. But he set out to write a shorter novel, and I think he did so at the expense of fully developing his characters. There's a lot of telling rather than showing going on, and none of the characters felt authentic. This is particularly true for the majo ...more
Thom Swennes
Destiny is not imaginable, except in dreams or to those in love.
Patrick Wallingford is an attractive man and liked by everyone; both male and female. His life takes a dramatic turn when his left hand is severed at the wrist and devoured by a lion in India. This exceptionally painful accident forms the basis of the story. John Irving displays his rare writing talents by putting his skills in the characters rather than their actions. He isn’t the easiest writer to follow but once the reader finds
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Ronald Anleu
It started really strong, then took a nosedive. Towards the end, most of the witty writing was gone. The story was dragging towards its expected and anticlimactic conclusion. Patrick's growth as a human being was "told" rather than "shown". I think I enjoyed reading about the side characters more than the protagonist and his love interest. The hand doctor's life was definitely more interesting. I did like the media/news satire, but I think the criticism barely scratched the surface. I found the ...more
Janille N G
Check out my tribute to John Irving on my literary blog!

http://worldofmygreenheart.wordpress.com
Katiana
Bizarre, but surprisingly touching. Descriptions that just stick with you long after you read it.
Tim Williams
It's hard for me to believe John Irving wrote this. It's bad by any standard and certainly not what I have come to expect from him. It reads like:

1. A first draft that was supposed to capture the main ideas but was then never re-drafted for readability.

2. That no editor was ever involved.

3. As if it was some college lit student's attempt to write like John Irving.

There very isolated moments when the great writer peaks in (hence a two rather than a one rating), but in general it just tries to har
...more
Mike
This is a really enjoyable and quick novel, despite all the shitty reviews it got.
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La Stamberga dei ...: La quarta mano di John Irving 1 7 Jun 05, 2013 09:10AM  
Double hand-transplant 1 24 May 05, 2009 12:47PM  
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John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. The World According to Garp, which won the National Book Award in 1980, was John Irving’s fourth novel and his first international bestseller; it also became a George Roy Hill film. Tony Richardson wrote and directed the adaptation for the screen of The Hotel New Hampshire (1984). Irving’s novels are now translated into thirty ...more
More about John Irving...
A Prayer for Owen Meany The World According to Garp The Cider House Rules The Hotel New Hampshire A Widow for One Year

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