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The Fourth Hand

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  28,419 ratings  ·  1,182 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. 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 w ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 29th 2003 by Fawcett Books (first published July 3rd 2001)
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Average rating 3.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  28,419 ratings  ·  1,182 reviews

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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
Jul 05, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Apr 01, 2008 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! ...more
Nov 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.

Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Christopher Sworen
“ ‘Just don’t ever think I haven’t lost something, too,’ Mrs Clausen told him angrily. ”

The Fourth Hand is a novel written by John Irving. It is the author’s 10th novel and was first published on July 3 2001.

The story revolves around Patrick Wallingford, a field reporter from New York who often flies abroad in order to report the news, or items as they call them professionally, that are of less importance than real news, but which bring a lot of lucrative views. One day, while he’s in India
Dec 29, 2008 rated it liked it
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
May 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 05, 2015 rated it liked it
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
May 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really enjoyable and quick novel, despite all the shitty reviews it got.
Zack Brown
May 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read a lot of the reviews by some goodread readers where they said this book lacked a real plot. Of course I disagree with that opinion as you can see by the 5 stars that I gave this book. This was a very unique novel from any other book or previous Irving book I have read.

The story is about a womanizing journalist named Patrick Wallingford who gets his left hand eaten by a lion while covering a story in India. Out of the millions of people who see this happen on T.V, it is one women named Do
Hilary G
Dec 11, 2012 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, Irvinge
Andrew Harkless
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Stephen McQuiggan
Jul 28, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Paul Falk
Apr 19, 2017 rated it liked it
A television reporter from New York, while filming a story in India, carelessly, moves too close to the cage of a lion. In an instant, the lion grabs his hand and consumes it. His left hand. This makes world news. The public can't get enough of it. He's achieved instant celebrity status. Minus a hand.

He's been contacted by a donor to replace his left hand. This act of charity was made by the deceased man's wife. The stage is set for the first hand transplant. And a future relationship with the w
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Anna Nesbitt
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think Irving could write a grocery list and I would enjoy reading it... I love the way he creates and develops, and then follows the growth of his characters. I love the completeness, the wholeness he creates with his outrageously hilarious and thought-provoking stories. The way he strings words together on the page... so great!
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
The plot, strange as it is, had potential in the hands of a gifted and creative writer like John Irving who has produced some wonderful novels. This book however is an aberration. Throughly unlikeable characters none of whom manage to redeem themselves. Two stars is generous and it pains me to do that to an author I otherwise love.
Thomas Strömquist
Good. Odd. A bit short but definitely worth it. Lots of dark humor and good characters.
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars. I really enjoyed this. I sympathized with Wallingford and I’m so glad he got the promise of the life he wanted. I still liked Owen Meany better but this is a close 2nd.
Tim Healy
Nov 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is something of a lesser work, I would think, for Irving, who I consider to be one of the best living American novelists. This is really a 3 star book that elevates itself to the fourth star purely on the strength of the author's writing. I love the flow of Irving's text; the smoothness of his sentences. It's all in here, too.

Irving thinks this is a comic love story. I'm not sure I agree. In its depictions, characterizations, and outcomes it's darker than that. To a degree that's hard to ov
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going out on a limb with my thoughts on this one. This is one of the worst rated books by John Irving, and yet it's a good book. The story is decent, the writing well done and the characters mostly likeable once you get to know them. There's only one problem here. John Irving wrote it.

Now, hear me out on this one. Compared to some of his masterpieces like Garp or Cider House, this is not even worthy of comparison. It's a weird, almost bittersweet romance with tinges of comedy and a couple ch
May 30, 2018 rated it did not like it
John Irving is a pale imitation of Ernest Hemingway. His stories revolve around men and women serve as a sexual outlet. However, Hemingway allowed for the development of strong relationships among the men (or between a man and a fish). Irving's main characters tend to be loners who have no idea how to create deep relationships at all.

Patrick Wallingford, a television reporter, loses his hand to a lion in a highly unbelievable scenario. It's caught on camera and that's all anyone ever remembers a
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, audiobook, literary
I think this is the first Irving novel I've read which doesn't feature a bear somewhere in the story. Just a brief mention of one in a photograph, and that's it. There was a lion, which played a central, if brief role, but no bear. I have to say, I kind of missed a bear.

Other than that, this is another wonderful Irving story. Peopled by quirky characters and with a fair dose of improbable coincidences, Irving again weaves a tale which captivates, enraptures, and satisfies. What always fascinate
Michael Adamchuk
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, fiction, read-2002
As usual, an unusual story from Irving with a quirky cast of characters.. Patrick Wallingford loses his hand to a lion. Dr. Nicholas Zajor wants to do the first hand transplant. A donor is found and the story goes on. Patrick falls in love with the donor's wife. The ethics of transplants are also discussed. ...more
Aaron Nash
Jan 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Irvings prose is gorgeous as usual which kept this one from being a total wash out.

Overall the story was pretty weak, although I did like the characters, and there was more humour here than his other works that I've read.

It's a hard one to review. I enjoyed it but I didn't enjoy it. I know that doesn't help. Weird. Glad I finished it though.
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another winner from Irving. It has the magnificently real, full-fleshed out characters I've come to expect from him. It's not "A Prayer for Owen Meany" or "The World According to Garp" but it's well worth reading. Narration was good. ...more
Beth Slucher
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The stories that Irving tells are darkly funny and full of insight into the male gaze. This is a spot on turn-of-the-century tale of upper middle class guys, the women they engage with, and how they grow.
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What book have you read that you found the end disappointing? 1 4 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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