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The Fourth Hand

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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.

368 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published July 3, 2001

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About the author

John Irving

174 books14.2k followers
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 in 1981 for his short story “Interior Space.” In 2000, Mr. Irving won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules. In 2013, he won a Lambda Literary Award for his novel In One Person.
An international writer—his novels have been translated into more than thirty-five languages—John Irving lives in Toronto. His all-time best-selling novel, in every language, is A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Avenue of Mysteries is his fourteenth novel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,281 reviews
Profile Image for Baba.
3,562 reviews862 followers
July 1, 2022
24 News channel reporter Patrick Wallingford has his hand bitten of on live news TV… by a Lion! Yes, you read that correctly. You still with me? A pioneering surgeon looks to a hand amputation from a newly dead person to Patrick, there's one issue… the newly dead man's wife what's visitation rights to her husband's transplanted hand!

This all sounds so good and is quite entertaining, but this well written literary dark comedy taking a left-field look at themes like sex, infidelity, self awareness, modern news reporting, the abuse of male power and more, just doesn't live up to the expectations set by the initial concepts. Ultimately a story of a very good looking, quite well off man in a position of power, who sleeps with lots of woman is just not for me, check my Profile spiel. Probably a great read for Irving fans? A mere 4 out of 12, Two Star read for me.

2022 read
Profile Image for Stephanie "Jedigal".
580 reviews41 followers
December 4, 2007
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 finishing it, which is NOT like me, once I get in very far.

Sorry for the short discussion, but I disliked this book so much I would rather not think about it too long now!

For those who have not tried Irving, don't judge him by this one! I especially recommend A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, one of my all time favorites, and THE CIDER HOUSE RULES.
Profile Image for Schmacko.
246 reviews65 followers
January 13, 2013
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 also loves those moments of sweetness, to the point that they can become syrupy at times, like at the end of Owen Meany.
5. He writes very clean sentences; they’re amazingly adept and easy to read.
6. Still, his little inventions often strain my suspension of disbelief.

All of these are true for The Fourth Hand. Patrick Wallingford is a cavalier reporter for a sensational news channel. He trots the globe covering disasters and small tragedies for the spectacle-obsessed audience. In each port, he panders his cavalier, sleeping with women without forethought or remorse. Then he loses his left hand in a lion accident. (No spoilers: it happens in the first few pages).

Dr. Zajac is a minor character, but he is the opposite of Patrick. He’s too distant, too thoughtful, very analytical, and even clueless. He’s a hand surgeon who hopes to utilize Patrick’s accident to make the first successful hand transplant.

Doris lost her husband, a man she loved very much; they agreed that if the opportunity should ever arise, they’d donate their hand to Patrick (who became famous because his accident was caught on camera.) Though Doris is sad at never having a child with her husband, and she is now grief-stricken, she insists on meeting Patrick and Dr. Zajac to make sure her hubby’s hand is going to a deserving person.

Love is going to find all these characters, even in their extreme circumstances. The main story here is how falling in love helps transform Patrick from a brainless, pretty lothario to someone who wants to be upstanding and responsible. The main question is whether he’s changed drastically and soon enough to deserve Doris, a grief-stricken woman whose husband’s hand Patrick now possesses.

Now to my six points:

1) Patrick’s journey is worthy as long as everyone recognizes that he is not always the most engaging, sympathetic character. He’s pretty shallow, in fact. I feel Irving spent too much time with Patrick, given that the man is basically a handsome but thoughtless cad. Dr. Zajac is also a bit of an automaton, but Irving seems to have spent the exact right amount of time with his story. We get the comparisons to Patrick. If Patrick’s story had been shortened to seem more even to Dr. Zajac’s (and Doris’), I would’ve been OK with that.

2) Doris: yes, I wish I’d known much more. What does her obsession with football mean? How does it define her, her relationship with her husband, her connection to his family? How does her day-to-day life look, especially grief stricken, especially jobless and with new responsibilities? How will she ever prepare herself to move on, to make room for another relationship in her life? In many ways, she purposely chooses to believe certain mythologies and lies: why? A few more chapters with her back-story would’ve pleased me. Her story is the shortest of the three main characters, and I feel that’s deeply unfair to her character and to the readers.

3 and 6) [Yes, I know I’m going out of order.] So, yeah, there is weirdness here. Actually the lion attack was believable, and even the hand transplant has some fact behind it. However, the strained little lies that characters tell themselves and each other were a little more problematic. I often doubted people’s intentions, and I felt that others acted fairly gullibly at times. I felt that outspoken characters would’ve been more blunt, less accepting.

4) This novel is one of Irving’s quieter, sweeter novels, even with the lion attack at the beginning. That should make it more saccharine, but I found that Irving did an even job with the romance and relationship portion (except, of course, what I mentioned earlier about people trusting others and not speaking up enough.)

5) There is something so breezy about the way Irving writes that I didn’t feel I’d read almost 300 pages. It’s a simple, effective approach I wish other writers – including myself – knew how to mimic.

So, that’s why this is only a good but not great novel, even though I feel that Irving is one of our best living writers.
Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,772 reviews133 followers
June 17, 2021
Fast Paced Fun

I must tell you right up front that I am an unabashed John Irving fan. So, “the fourth hand is a book that I found fantastic fun exciting and witty.

Irving combines both a comedy and a romance story in one book – – gifted and amazing. Now for many Irving sense of comedy is completely off-the-wall unless you’re willing to go there with him it can even be called weird. I am an off-the-wall kind of guy so I totally 100% loved it.

Characters are strong, maybe not relatable, but very well explained and easy to follow.

I love this book I loved Irving and I highly recommend it
Profile Image for Rea.
53 reviews
April 10, 2008
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!
Profile Image for Allison.
153 reviews7 followers
March 18, 2011
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 are so that couldn't save this book either. Put all that together, and I have to say that the book was just okay. Honestly, if it was written by someone other than J.I., I probably would have given it 3 stars, but John, I hold you to a higher standard.
Profile Image for Michael.
274 reviews763 followers
November 17, 2009
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.

Patrick Wallingford is a television correspondent for a television network known as the "disaster channel." While filming a segment about a bizarre and tragic accident at a circus, Patrick's hand is devoured by a lion. Following the event, which is shown endlessly on television, he becomes known as "the lion guy," and becomes much more famous than he ever was before, ending up a news anchor. But Patrick is a shallow, womanizing little shit, and is good looking enough to get away with it.

A man from Wisconsin agrees to donate his hand to Patrick in the case of his death. Then, through a bizarre accident, the man dies. Patrick inherits the man's hand, and falls in love with the man's wife (who doesn't love him). This unrequited love causes Patrick to begin reevaluating his own life.

Personally, I've never known any guys who have this easy of a time getting poontang. It seems like every time Patrick turns around, some hottie is dropping her panties. I'm not sure whether a feminist reading of this book would find John Irving in contempt or not. But, it seems to me that we're SUPPOSED to see Patrick as a prick for most of the novel . . . so is all of this womanizing acceptable? Personally, I wasn't blown away by any of the female characters here, not even the woman he falls for, and my favorite was the gum-chewing ho who did Patrick's makeup. I mention all of this because I was mildly distracted throughout by the treatment of women, and how shallow it often felt. So, if that's something that often gets you up in arms, you probably won't enjoy this book as much as you would many of Irving's other works.

This is definitely worth reading for any Irving fan. If you haven't read anything yet by him, I wouldn't start here: track down a copy of The World According to Garp or A Prayer For Owen Meany. This book is good because it's John Irving weaving a fun and bizarre tapestry like he always does. You know how Iron & Wine songs are always good because they always sound like Iron & Wine? Same principal here. The extra incentive here is the fact that this book is more continuously funny than usual, and this might be Irving's only novel where he doesn't try and tell the entire story of the main character's life. The whole story focuses on five or so years for the main characters. So, read it if you're moved to do so. Or don't. Yeah, I never know how to end these reviews. I could end it with a tacky joke about giving a HAND to John Irving, but that would be lame, wouldn't it?
Profile Image for Caroline.
503 reviews563 followers
June 6, 2012
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 after the transplant.

Wallingford has always been hugely attractive to women, and keeps falling mindlessly into bed with them. His life as a rather gormless libertine is disrupted by the entry of Mrs Clausen into his life.

Whilst I liked the eccentric storyline in the book, I never felt any great emotion towards any of the characters. The parts I enjoyed most were the descriptions of the news station - the politics, the scheming, and the laying bare of the shallow nastiness of its journalism. But that wasn't nearly enough to keep me hooked.

This is my first John Irving book though, and what I have picked up on is the vast wave of admiration that thousands of people feel for his writing. Many people describe him as their favourite author. I shall have to read another of his books and see how I get on with that.
Profile Image for Arwen56.
1,218 reviews268 followers
November 27, 2016
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.
Profile Image for J.
377 reviews43 followers
May 30, 2010
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 would like to see get his comeuppances. However, the accident which he had a hand in (pardon the pun) proves to be a point of embarkation where he realizes that such a devastating loss leads to immeasurable rewards.

I found the back story about the 'faux' news network to be particularly apropos because Irving was able to project an absurd sense of reality to an otherwise inane albeit acceptable genre of entertainment in American culture today; news. Mary Shannahan's character was someone who I loved to hate - not so much because of her gender but because of her ceaseless, raw ambition which defies everything her television personality puts forward. It is a matter of image versus substance - the entire theme of this book - who we are as opposed to who we want people to believe that we are.

For anyone who feels jaded by what comes across as news nowadays, this is definitely a book for you. For those who fail to see the irony in news which really isn't; this may not be the book for you. Such critics of this story who point to the unbelievability of such a story as, "The Fourth Hand," are likely to pan it because, "The Fourth Hand" fails to follow a prescribed script more akin to what can be routinely found on any given cable news channel. Ignore the naysayers and read the book. It is good and stands on its own.

As an aside, I'll definitely be picking up, "The English Patient," and "Stewart Little" - the two books Irving mentioned in this story. I enjoy picking up on the ongoing side bar commentary he seems to offer to anyone who is paying enough attention to what he has to say - aside from the obvious story line in his other books. His delivery is subtle and unmistakably John Irving. I suppose this why I enjoy his writing so much.
Profile Image for Glendalee.
440 reviews5 followers
August 21, 2011
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 Doris who wants her husband Otto to become a donor for Patrick because she feels really sorry for him. Otto isn't to thrilled about the idea but does it anyway not because his wife forces him to but because he can't resist her. When Doris uses her "seductive" tone of voice on him, Otto succumbs to anything she desires because he is so aroused; so he becomes a donor. Otto ends up dying by mistake when he shoots himself while drunk. Patrick now has a new left hand under one condition, Otto's widower Doris wants visitation rights with the left hand because it is the only thing of Otto that she has left. Before the surgery Doris "rapes" Patrick (who can blame her hes a handsome devil) because she was trying for a baby with Otto for so many years but they were unsuccessful. So she becomes pregnant with Pats baby. After the hand transplant, Doris spends as much time as she desires with Patrick (or better said with his left hand). Womanizer Patrick ends up falling in love with this odd woman who is now carrying his child. Though Doris is carrying Pat's child she no longer sleeps with him again, she got what she wanted which was a baby and time with her husbands left hand. Unsurprisingly Patrick's body ends up rejecting the hand after almost a year, also unsurprisingly Doris looses interest in him after her late husbands left hand is removed. Though Patrick has a string of flings behind him, and commitment issues, he wants to be a part of Doris and his child's life but she doesn't begin a relationship between thems.

The novel then goes on about Patrick's journey in trying to win Doris love and trying to be a part of his sons life; while trying to get fired from his journalism job because he realizes its not a job he wants to be a part of because of the fake people who work there...and all the women he has slept with there. I won't spoil the ending and tell you what ends up happening between Patrick and Doris. But I will say the ending was unexpected yet satisfying like all of Irving endings.

I think this novel was less dark and tragic than the other previous Irving novels I've read. It still had a lot of comedy in there. It was more hilarious than sad. There were some funny ex lovers and current lovers of Patrick that made this novel so hilarious and hard to put down. Despite Patrick womanizing ways, I like every girl in this book was also in love with him. He had his flaws but overall he was a nice and honest man, who ended up growing at the end of this novel. I didn't like the fact that he was so easily persuaded into doing things though. He has a vulnerability in him that makes him give in easily to people. He has the personality you wouldn't expect of someone so handsome.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I think it had a great and unique story line, but what else can you expect from Irving?. I think the critics here on goodreads for this book were to harsh, making it seem so terrible when it really wasn't. I think if your looking for a unique funny love story, you'll find it in this book. Irving will reel you in! Trust me!.
Profile Image for Cheri.
477 reviews6 followers
June 25, 2016
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 (jerky, shallow, writing for a jerky, shallow world of people), then I probably would have enjoyed it more. As it was, I was simply annoyed.

For me this novel was a case of the parts being better than the whole. There were elements to the novel that I was fascinated by (Dr. Zajac, Doris Clausen), and parts that I just didn't get. For example, the main character is, simply, a dufus. And, apparently, handsome and vacuous enough to make women want to have his babies. Did I ever want a shallow man's baby? Nope. But apparently it's a thing.

The novel's ride smooths out as it moves along, and that made the last half of the novel much better for me. However, I never really cared much about the main character. And, I wanted to know more about Doris. That woman was one interesting, weird character.

There's a bit o'magical realism here, which was a plus in my book.

So it was okay, enough good parts to warrant the read.
Profile Image for Anna Nesbitt.
13 reviews
August 19, 2017
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!
Profile Image for Mike.
64 reviews8 followers
May 30, 2008
This is a really enjoyable and quick novel, despite all the shitty reviews it got.
Profile Image for Dovilė Stonė.
141 reviews71 followers
August 17, 2020
Pasiėmiau į sodybą savaitgaliui, nes myliu Irvingo stilių ir tikėjaus smagiai suskaityt, bet suskaičiau tik dėl to, kad nieko daugiau neturėjau. :D Namuose būčiau metus.

Nykuma. Siužetas neįtraukiantis, neįdomus, skylėtas, padrikas; veikėjai neryškūs... Jokio jausmo, jokios intrigos. Atrodo, kad knyga parašyta iš reikalo.
Profile Image for Zack Brown.
Author 8 books3 followers
May 18, 2007
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 reporter, Patrick Wallingford, later falls in love with the widow of his hand transplant donor. The book has fewer layers than Garp or A Prayer for Owen Meany, and is without the adroit literary architecture present in most of Irving’s work. However, its commentary on the era of sensationalist ‘all-news-networks’ and their exploitation of national tragedies is particularly pertinent this week.

The following is from a Facebook group, posted by a news outlet on Monday:

"Hi everyone. My name is Karen Park. I am working with Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) in New York City. We are looking for (korean) people from VT who knew Mr. Cho personally, had a class with him, was his roommate in previous years, etc…

We would also like to know if anybody has any photographs or video clips of him or with him. We are interested in only showing his face and so we will blot out the faces of other people in the photographs.

Lastly, if anyone is willing to do a brief on-camera interview with one of our correspondents in Virginia or a telephone interview, please call us immediately..."

On Monday night, Brian Williams did the NBC Nightly News broadcast from the Hokie campus in Blacksburg. Tucker Carlson, MSNBC’s chief political pundit, was also there. Hoards of reporters have descended on Blacksburg, looking for the “he kept to himself” sound bytes and B-roll of the hysterical, sobbing friends of victims; ESPN is reporting on the canceled Hokie spring game and how the ‘innocence’ of college sports will bring us back together. Even the all-sports-news network struck gold:

“you realize there are 32 people who aren't walking down to the football game."
In The Fourth Hand, Wallingford is at the anchor desk the week of JFK Jr’s plane crash over Martha’s Vineyard. He curses both the local news and all-news networks for taking telephoto shots of the victims’ friends and family, and the networks’ proclivity to stretch a tragic story into a multi-week feeding frenzy. Wallingford would chastise Brian Williams for his reporting with all the gravitas and feigned verisimilitude of having been in the classroom with the victims, and the way the press will scrutinize the writings of Cho Seung-Hui and opine that someone should have seen it coming.

The Fourth Hand is about a man who loses his hand and finds his soul. Needless to say, it is a work of fiction. Our aggressive all-news culture will ride the Virginia Tech story like they did Imus and Duke and Anna Nicole Smith; they will be relentless. There are 28,000 students at Virginia Tech and, by the end of this week, each will have been solicited for an on-camera interview, photographs of Cho Seung-Hui and more information about the thirty-two victims.

On the fourth or fifth day of non-stop reporting following Kennedy’s plane crash, Wallingford sits in the anchor’s chair watching—with millions of viewers worldwide—a network montage of Kennedy Jr.’s life. The montage ends—with the image of John-John saluting his father’s funeral procession—and the camera is back on Wallingford. In lieu of his usual signoff (“Goodnight, Doris. Goodnight, my little Otto.”) Wallingford says, “Let’s hope that’s the end of it.”
Profile Image for Hilary G.
326 reviews12 followers
October 10, 2017
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, Irvingesque. Irving is a bit of a legend in his own lifetime and clearly he himself has been completely taken in by the hype. This isn't really fair, I know, but the picture of the author on the inside front cover irritated the hell out of me, being something of a "pin up" that seems to demand us not only hanging on his every word because he's a "truly great American author" (must be, says so on the back cover), but thinking him a bit of a hunk as well. I just thought he looked smug.

I found some of the screamingly funny parts of the book completely unfunny. The constant references to the three-named doorman who mistook Wallingford for some sort of ball player (baseball?) left my sides decidedly unsplit. Obviously my problem, because everyone knows just how original and funny John Irving is, everyone says so, therefore (as an old boyfriend often used to tell me when I failed to be amused by things that amused him) I have NO SENSE OF HUMOUR.

I found it impossible to care about most of the characters. I felt no sympathy for Wallingford when the lions snacked on his left hand and no joy when his love for Doris was finally consummated (no, Ray, I didn't forget about the earlier sex, but it was only a metaphor!) I tried to relate to the characters in an allegorical sense, but I couldn't for the life of me imagine what they were an allegory for (should that be of)? I read somewhere about "redemptive love" (either on the cover, or in a review somewhere) but redeem a cardboard cut out and it's still a cardboard cut out. If there was redemptive love in the book, I didn't find it where I think I was supposed to, but I did find it in the parts of the book about Dr Zajac and his son, Rudy. I found their relationship moving and human and I cared enough about them to wish them well. Their part of the book was warm and actually funny. The dog-turd lacrosse did make me laugh and was inventive and clever, but stuck out like an iceberg in an otherwise running sea.

This wasn't a bad book, by any means. It was competently written, the plot hung together, there were some neat turns of phrase. I've got to the age where life is too short to read crap books to the end, but I never thought of not finishing this one. Maybe the problem was my expections as I had the constant sense that the book was "not good enough". I remember The World According to Garp as being startlingly original and a really fun read, but I suspect this one won't stay in my memory for very long, dog turd lacrosse and all.

Apparently this book was engendered by the author's wife, Janet, asking the inspiring question " What if the donor's widow demands visitation rights with the hand?" I guess if John Irving is going to write better books, he's going to have to get a new wife!
Profile Image for Andrew Harkless.
Author 3 books39 followers
February 4, 2015
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 John Irving constructs a distinct and different story with each new project. Their (authors and their books that dare) quality should not be judged, measured, or based on previous works; in this case, A Widow for One Year, The World According to Garp, or The Cider House Rules. Fiction does not have to be regurgitated facsimiles or seemingly a product of manufacturing.
Profile Image for Carrie Poppy.
305 reviews1,090 followers
June 3, 2022
I really love John Irving (Garp and Owen are two of my favorite novels), but like anybody he’s got lesser titles and stronger titles. I would say this is a mid-range title for him. Still good, but not gonna make it into my mental canon of John Irving books to remember. Still, a compelling story with some of Irving’s favorite themes (sexually empowered women, men who can’t decide whether to be meek or bold, the choice between domestic life and great acclaim, the magical strongholds of romantic love, and the mental power of coincidence). If you like his Víctor Hugo - like turn toward magical co-Incidence, you’ll enjoy it. If you find that too easy, you probably won’t. But then you probably don’t enjoy John Irving to begin with. A fine book!
Profile Image for Noce.
203 reviews280 followers
July 2, 2015
"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".
Profile Image for Stephen Coulon.
199 reviews2 followers
September 3, 2022
This one follows a vapid but handsome TV journalist who blindly meanders through life exhibiting no agency of his own. His good looks and natural charm keep him effortlessly employed, adored, and in bed with beautiful women. Naturally he ends up completely unsatisfied with life, so the bulk of the novel tracks his progressions through years of transformative moments. All of Irving’s charming style is on display here: the zany eccentricities, the inventively apt metaphors, the easy conversational wit, and the eye for characterizing detail. On the other hand the protagonist is an eye-roll-eliciting mary-sue to the point of distraction, not one Irving’s memorable Dickensian characters, and Irving’s penchant for tangential plotlines and his wide cast of characters drag this one out too long. There is a general theme that ties the disparate ends of this book together though, and Irving develops it with his signature life-affirming kindness: if you are going to acquiesce to something, acquiesce to love. It’s a sweet message, sweetly told in what is likely one of Irving’s worst books. If you are an English major looking for a paper to write, it’s easy to speculate the influence this book had on Andrew Sean Greer’s composition of his Pulitzer Prize winning novel Less (2017). 
Profile Image for Martha Zavala.
118 reviews2 followers
August 21, 2020
La trama es muy peculiar , un hombre pierde una mano y consigue que le transplanten otra
Tienen derecho los familiares a visitar la mano trasplantada ? Tienen derechos
Los problemas éticos y de salud aún siendo interesantes palidecen ante la Maestria del autor en crear personajes , ambientes e historias
También critica a los medios de comunicación y sus intereses
11 reviews
September 11, 2022
"Nettes" Buch, schön geschrieben, ein paar überraschende Reflexionen des Protagonisten, Kritik an System Presse, aber in Summe hat mich das Buch in keiner Weise richtig berührt - ausser dass die Liebesgeschichte darin ungewöhnlich und schön ist.
27 reviews1 follower
November 24, 2022
I have loved previous John Irving books, but this one was disappointing. I didn’t like the way the female characters were portrayed. They were always described by their looks and wether they were attractive or not. None of the female characters rang true. It just wasn’t believable. I did enjoy the last 100 pages but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Profile Image for Jim.
376 reviews9 followers
February 7, 2015
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 make it past page 50 or so).

Most of Irving’s novels are saturated in his signature style, which is one of the features that I positively love about an Irving novel. But this one, well, it’s certainly not his best effort. It lacks his style and tone. If I hadn’t read his name on the front cover of the book, I would have had a difficult time believing that he is the author. The protagonist, although he does experience some redemption and growth throughout this relatively brief—for Irving—novel, is just not very likeable. Perhaps that was Irving’s point—he’s a TV news personality who’s lost his left hand in a bizarre lion attack, and that odd fate makes him more curious than sympathetic. He falls in love with the woman who donates her recently deceased husband’s hand as a transplant. And bizarre romantic lunacy ensues. Or maybe it was supposed to.

And that’s just it—in an Irving novel, a huge part of the enjoyment of the story is going along for the narrative ride. Although it’s usually impossible to tell where Irving is going with a story, I have always been confident that he knew what he was doing, and I was truly comfortable ceding narrative vision to him as a master storyteller. That vision is absent from “The Fourth Hand.” It pains me to say that this is the first John Irving novel that I do not truly love. But that will not stop me from reading the ones he’s written after this one, and the ones he’s yet to write.
Profile Image for Stephen McQuiggan.
Author 75 books26 followers
August 11, 2016
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 his worst - the novel grinds to a halt during Patrick the Void's infatuation with her and never really picks up again. Pity, because it was such a great start - could have done with a plot transplant by the end.
Profile Image for Eva G.
154 reviews36 followers
September 17, 2020
Bol taký deň, že som sa zobudila, dočítala knihu a povedala si, že mám chuť na americký román. Neviem, odkiaľ to prišlo, ale kombinácia faktorov: všetky knihy zbalené v banánových krabiciach, zbalené v pivnici v inom štáte - zvláštny výber v čítačke - nejaké predchádzajúce odporúčania mi dopomohla k Johnovi Irvingovi. Toto je prvá kniha, ktorú som od neho čítala a podľa recenzií ani zďaleka nie najlepšia. Mňa to ale bavilo. Dobrá dávka bizáru, citlivo vykreslené, zvláštne a svojské postavy a bolo to aj vtipné. Ten pomalý záver vnímam ako cynickú hru s čitateľkou, ktorá čakala vyvrcholenie a dostala také to pomalé odplazenie sa do brlohu. Ale aj také to niekedy vie byť.
Profile Image for Paul Falk.
Author 9 books128 followers
April 20, 2017
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 wife.

This was an amusing and shallow tale. Irving's done better.
Profile Image for Heather.
469 reviews12 followers
November 22, 2014
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.
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