The Fourth Hand

The Fourth Hand

A Novel

Paperback - 2001
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While reporting a story from India, New York journalist Patrick Wallingford inadvertently becomes his own headline when his left hand is eaten by a lion. In Boston, a renowned surgeon eagerly awaits the opportunity to perform the nation's first hand transplant. But what if the donor's widow demands visitation rights with the hand? In answering this unexpected question, John Irving has written a novel that is by turns brilliantly comic and emotionally moving, offering a penetrating look at the power of second chances and the will to change.

Praise for The Fourth Hand

"A rich and deeply moving tale . . . Vintage Irving: a story of two very disparate people, and the strange and unexpected ways we grow . . . Irving's novels are perceptive and precise reflections of the world around us." -- The Washington Post Book World

"A blend of sexual farce, journalistic satire, and tender love story . . . From what at first seems bizarre, Irving builds the best kind of love story: an improbable one. Wallingford gets more than a transplanted hand; he begins to find his soul." -- USA Today

"A riveting entertainment and certainly one of the funniest novels of the year. The authoritative control of Irving's storytelling has never been more impressive. . . . The delighted reader is powerless to look away." -- Chicago Sun-Times

"[A] thoroughly satisfying literary experience . . . Irving's most compassionate and redemptive [novel] to date . . . [His] mastery of characterization is unequaled in American novelists of the day." -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"A beautiful story about the redemptive power of love." -- The Denver Post
Publisher: New York : Ballentine Books, 2001
ISBN: 9780345449344
Branch Call Number: FIC IRV
Characteristics: 316 p. : 24 cm


From the critics

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Oct 11, 2017

This isn't a real story about anything but lots and lots of sex. A man slut decides to settle down. The twists in the story are minor compared to all the sex and the chapters just keep repeating the same point with little or no humor. In fact Ms Clausen is quite dry and humorless. Just because in the first couple pages this guy gets his hand bit off most of the book has to do with nothing but romance. Sorry I am not romantic, in fact from what I've seen of the world it's a cold and lonely place to be and I don't know anyone male or female 'beautiful', or 'attractive'. A book about people with careers, wives, pets, and newborns. Total crap. Thank for your effort Mr. Irving. They can't all be home runs.

Oct 06, 2017

I put this book down once, then picked it up again after reading some positive reviews. In the end, I returned the book to the library with the last 50 pages unread because it wasn't going anywhere. It felt like sleeze with no purpose. I loved "A Prayer for Owen Meaney" and "The World According to Garp." John Irving's writing style is fresh and readable. This one, however, didn't do it for me.

Jul 18, 2016

Irving's 10th novel (and one his shorter ones) is what he calls his "post-screenplay novel." He adapted "The Cider House Rules" for the screen, which won him an Oscar. I found it a vastly overrated film, but I'm glad he won the award. Irving is a realist, but he's never shied away from coincidences, improbabilities, and the slightly bizarre. The main event of "The Fourth Hand" is the protagonist, a news anchor, losing his hand in a freak lion attack in India. He then gets a hand transplant from a Wisconsin man who accidentally shot himself. The man's widow demands visitation rights with the hand. There's also the ultra healthy and competent, if eccentric, hand doctor. Out of this somewhat improbable material, Irving writes a novel that is funny, touching, and deeply empathetic. It's a smaller, more modest work than many of his other novels, but with no less depth and insight.

dgr Oct 11, 2012

I like this novel and John Irving for what I hope are all the right reasons.

However, it's good that Wallingford is presented as somewhat stupid because this is another novel where we're left with the impression that males are attracted to bossy, game-playing females.

At the end, I was really hoping Wallingford would tell her,"Darling, I love you but if you don't cut the crap with the games and learn some manners I'm going to put on some weight, become less attractive, DUMP you then LOSE the weight!" but he never did.

We really need more media that explains to women the reasons men dump them so they'll finally have a clue.

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