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The Fourth Hand Paperback – May 14, 2002
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Television reporter Patrick Wallingford becomes a story himself when he loses his hand to a caged lion while in India covering a circus. The moment is captured live on film, and Patrick (who wears a "perpetual but dismaying smile--the look of someone who knows he's met you before but can't recall the exact occasion") is henceforth known as the lion guy. Before long, plans are made to equip Patrick with a new hand. Doctor Nicholas M. Zajac, superstar surgeon, indefatigable dog-poop scooper, runner, and part-time father, is poised to perform the operation. But the donor--or rather the widow of the donor--has a few stipulations. Doris Clausen wants to meet the one-handed reporter before the procedure, and insists on visitation rights afterward. Irving weaves these characters and a panoply of others together in a smart, funny, readable narrative. Often farcical, The Fourth Hand is ultimately something more: a tender chronicle of the redemptive power of love. --Victoria Jenkins --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
But what is it missing? Most of the characters are sufficiently unique and interestingly colorful to satisfy any long-time John Irving reader. I loved the subplot with the hand surgeon, Zajac, his son, and his housekeeper. The writing, as usual, is top-notch. (I must say, however, I was a little disappointed with the first sentence. Usually Irving knocks you right off your feet with his first sentences. This one barely made me shuffle my feet.)
What "The Fourth Hand" lacks that Irving's best novels nearly drown you in is a sense of emotional immensity. It doesn't help matters that this is such a short book. I think Irving is at his best in the form of the sprawling novel, where his themes and characters have ample time and space to weave themselves together on the loom of your imagination.
"The Fourth Hand" suffers from excessive lightness. It might be thought of as the 158-Pound Novel. There's a heaviness--a pleasant heaviness--to books like "The World According to Garp," "A Prayer for Owen Meany," and "A Widow For One Year" that simply isn't here.
And the plot just isn't as satisfying as that of "The Hotel New Hampshire" or "The Cider House Rules".Read more ›
But compared with *The Cider House Rules* *A Son of the Circus* (an underrated jewel of a novel), *A Widow For One Year*, and even *The World According to Garp*, this book seems a pallid effort, indeed. The overall premise/metaphor related to the loss of the protagonist's left hand seems labored and at times even silly; the characters on the whole seem wooden, unlikeable, and even worse, unmemorable; and the slightly sappy ending is all too predictable and Hollywood-esque. I would add that Irving's main character, the handsome newscaster Patrick Wallingford, seems oddly bland for a guy who supposedly is irresistable to all women. In fact, Patrick's seemingly effortless success at bedding any and all females seems to represent a male fantasy of sexual omniscience, the flip side of which is Irving's unflattering portrayal of just about all of his female characters as conniving and manipulative. It's hard for me to reconcile Irving's strangely flat and unappealing lead characters with the supposed ultimate message regarding how love abides and conquers all.
This is certainly not a terrible novel.Read more ›
The style of the book may be troubling to the fans of John Irving. The pace, language, and characterizations lacks that unique Irvingesque feel to it. This is not to undermine the excellence of the work, but if you are looking for the further hilarious adventures of another Owen Meany or Homer Wells, you won't find it within these pages.
What you do find is a tightly-written and very intimate work, which is really the hallmark of John Irving's writings. The lead protagonist, Patrick Wallingford, is vintage Irving: flawed, a victim of circumstances, yet sensitive to his own inner workings. And, as with all of Irvings characters, looking for some higher meaning in life and finding it in the most unlikely of places.
The Fourth Hand is a wonderful, touching, and emotional book; very reminiscent of one of Mr. Irvings earliest novels, The Water-Method Man. Ignore the "disappointed fans" who bemoan that the book is not another Owen Meany or Cider House Rules. Instead, settle down for a comfortable read and enjoy a world that only John Irving knows how best to create.
Irivng seems to be at his best when writing from what he knows: boarding schools, wrestling, bears, and when he writes in a true Dickensian Style. I'm sorry to say that "The Fourth Hand" has no boarding schools, no character aspires to be (or was) a wrestler, and the only wild animals are the lions in chapter one. Wallingford is shallow and uninteresting for the first two thirds of the book, and the female characters surrounding him are primarily cardboard displays. At one point, one of his conquests (Angie the makeup girl) sets up some very interesting possibilities, but in the end, turns out to be as uninteresting a character to us as she must be to Wallingford.
The plot is thin this time around, and although hardly predictable, has none of the classic structure, skill and style of "Owen Meany", and none of the heart of "Cider House." Perhaps it is unfair to categorize this novel with the others I've listed here. It is not a New England/Vienna novel, it does not aspire to the depths of literary greatness that "Owen Meany" does, and it has none of the political timeliness of "Garp". It is a simple story of a simple man. Unfortunately, Irving has shown us that he is capable of far more than this simplicity.
Maybe expectations lead to disappointments, but after the four BRILLIANT novels I mention above, "The Fourth Hand" pales.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
You can always count on twists and turns ; overplaying stories; complex character development! As with all of his books a real page turnerPublished 2 months ago by LCC
john irving’s novels became less sprawling with The Widow Of One Year, the novel published before The Fourth Hand. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Case Quarter
John Irving has several modern day classics to his name, so each new book he writes will inevitably be compared to those volumes. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Dirk M. Langeveld
Another John Irving book which seems slow to read but keeps you reading. The characters just keep you wanting you to keep reading because you can say to yourself I know how this... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Linda Patterson
Great blend of humor and ultimately sincerity -- from a superficial life to one with purpose and meaning. Well done.Published 12 months ago by mfpm