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The Fourth Hand

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3.29  ·  Rating Details ·  24,691 Ratings  ·  961 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)
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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
Apr 01, 2008 Rea rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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!
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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Arwen56
Romanzo molto spassoso e con una critica assai condivisibile nei confronti della meschinità e della superficialità di un certo modo di intendere l’informazione. Tuttavia, rispetto ad altre opere dello stesso autore quali Il mondo secondo Garp, Le regole della casa del sidro, Preghiera per un amico oppure Figlio del circo, tanto per fare degli esempi, mi è parso di livello decisamente inferiore.
J
Dec 29, 2008 J rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
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
Nov 17, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, 2000s
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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Allison
Mar 18, 2011 Allison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Zack Brown
May 18, 2007 Zack Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Noce
Jul 02, 2015 Noce rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"La quarta mano": cioè la quarta di quaranta che sarebbero servite a Irving per scrivere qualcosa che fosse anche solo lontanamente paragonabile a "Il mondo secondo Garp" o "Preghiera per un amico".
Hilary G
Dec 11, 2012 Hilary G rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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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Jim
Jan 25, 2015 Jim rated it liked it
I know that John Irving is a human being. I’ve seen him in person; therefore I know that he is human, which is to say, flawed. I accept that. What I have not accepted—until reading “The Fourth Hand”—is that he is a flawed writer. As a MASSIVE John Irving fan, I have genuinely loved every novel he published prior to this one, from the middle-aged suburban angst of “The 158-Pound Marriage” to the exotic lunacy of “A Son of the Circus” (which required three attempts before I could actually even mak ...more
Cheri
This novel was a very slow start for me. I had a hard time getting into the writing; it was shallow and quick, choppy even. Hard to fall into, and moved too quick and jerky to be enjoyable. Like riding a bus going too fast down an alley that may have something interesting going on, if you could look out the windows and see more than brick whizzing by.

Turns out that was on purpose.

I didn't figure it out, though, so that detracted from the novel as a whole. If I'd caught on to what he was doing
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Caroline
May 31, 2012 Caroline rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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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Stephen McQuiggan
Patrick Wallingford is the anchorman for a 'Disaster Channel'; a good looking vacuum, he loses a hand to a lion during a live TV segment that is shown around the world and which makes him a star. He becomes the recipient of a hand transplant; only thing is, the donor's wife wants visiting rights.
Zajac, the hand doctor, is Irving at his best - farcical, bizarre, and deeply tragic all in one. There are sections comparable to Dickens in their inventive eccentricity. Doris, however, is Irving at hi
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Heather
Nov 02, 2014 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, contemporary
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.
Michał Michalski
Dec 18, 2015 Michał Michalski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Długo nie "wchodziło", ale jak już weszło to ojezusmaria.
Thomas Strömquist
Good. Odd. A bit short but definitely worth it. Lots of dark humor and good characters.
Sandy
Jan 13, 2011 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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Robert C.
Oct 21, 2012 Robert C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 30, 2013 Keith rated it really liked it
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
Kelly ...
Nov 05, 2016 Kelly ... rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book was very disappointing. I happen to love most of John Irving's books which are always populated by odd, quirky, unique and unlikely characters. A Prayer for Owen Meany is extraordinarily beautiful and I will always have it in the top ten best books of all time. The Cider House Rules, The Hotel New Hampshire and The World According to Garp are funny, sad, tender and complex stories. Irving is a master at examining deep and controversial subjects like iconography, abortion, sexuality, fa ...more
Ruthie
Mar 04, 2013 Ruthie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Katie Shacklett
Jun 02, 2014 Katie Shacklett rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tim LaVoie
2.5. Unsurprisingly, The Fourth Hand is impeccably written. Irving has a way with words that makes me fly through his books and is an extraordinary storyteller. My problem with this one is that from page one, I never bought the actual story. It's just too bizarre to ever really care about. A TV journalist's hand is bitten off by a lion in India on live TV, he gets on the list for an experimental hand transplant, the hand doc is SNL skit strange, someone accidentally shoots themselves and dies in ...more
Andrew Harkless
Jan 25, 2015 Andrew Harkless rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found The Fourth Hand a highly entertaining read with an interesting premise—what are some of the moral and ethical issues associated with appendage transplants versus internal organs? As usual, Irving creates some slightly odd but memorable characters and does an excellent job of moving them and the story forward with his particularly unique style of humor, shock, and sensitivity. I tire of some Amazon reviewers comparing an author’s novels to that author’s past works. An American gem like Jo ...more
Uthpala Dassanayake
This is my first John Irving, and I sincerely hope that he usually writes much better than this. The beginning was so promising. I expected some classy comedy there. Patrick’s hand losing episode is written nicely. Then characters are introduced into the story one by one, and end up overdoing all of them. Zajac, Irma, Doris, Mary, Angie… Even Medea the Dog’s character is overdone! Maybe in an effort to make a better comedy, but it hasn’t worked with me.
Middle part of the book was like aimless wa
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Michael
A fine, enjoyable read of the development of a crass journalist into a fuller human being. Patrick is a TV reporter for an all-news network focused on disasters and tragedies of human interest who then becomes the subject of such news when he loses a hand to a circus lion in India. Unwanted fame grows further when he becomes a recipient of a hand transplant. His character as a heartless womanizer progressively transforms after he falls in love with the widow of the transplant donor. His progress ...more
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
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Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies


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.
Monica
Apr 08, 2015 Monica rated it liked it
This is not the best John Irving book I've read...but it's still up there when it comes to great writing. The story is a comedy and a tragedy, all rolled up into one of those meandering stories that Irving is good at writing. He moves from one character to the next, letting the reader into learn more about each. I wish the book had been a bit longer...and the ending a bit more ridiculous. Because that is why I read Irving...for that unpredictable jolt for the ordinary.
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What book have you read that you found the end disappointing? 1 2 Nov 01, 2016 12:39PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Change description 2 13 Dec 10, 2015 05:40PM  
La Stamberga dei ...: La quarta mano di John Irving 1 7 Jun 05, 2013 09:10AM  
Double hand-transplant 1 25 May 05, 2009 12:47PM  
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JOHN IRVING was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942. His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968, when he was twenty-six. He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, and coached wrestling until he was forty-seven.
Mr. Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for his novel The World According to Garp. He received an O. Henry Award
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