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The Fourth Hand
Synopses & Reviews
The Fourth Hand asks an interesting question: "How can anyone identify a dream of the future?" The answer: "Destiny is not imaginable, except in dreams or to those in love."
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.
This is how John Irving's tenth novel begins; it seems, at first, to be a comedy, perhaps a satire, almost certainly a sexual farce. Yet, in the end, The Fourth Hand is as realistic and emotionally moving as any of Mr. Irving's previous novels including The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and A Widow for One Year or his Oscar-winning screenplay of The Cider House Rules.
The Fourth Hand is characteristic of John Irving's seamless storytelling and further explores some of the author's recurring themes loss, grief, love as redemption. But this novel also breaks new ground; it offers a penetrating look at the power of second chances and the will to change.
"The Fourth Hand shares many of the author's previous qualities and defects....It is all wildly loopy, yet Irving has something deeper in mind....[I]n the book's last and best section, he makes the far-fetched not only human but moving." Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review
"Besides a turbocharged plot and outsized heroes and villains, other Irving trademarks are here: a reverence for childhood innocence, a weakness for the wincingly quirky, and outrage at zealotry of all kinds. There are also powerful, pungent descriptions of lust, moments of hilarity, and an intense (and intensely conveyed) preoccupation with the notion of redemption through love....In The Fourth Hand, [Irving] aims to tell a sweeping narrative with big, poignant themes, and he succeeds with brio." Elle
"Irving is compulsively readable...[The Fourth Hand] is classic Irving: extreme medical procedures, missing body parts and a surfeit of sex. But his condemnation of the media is right on, and...this is one crazy but sweet little love story." Booklist
"[The Fourth Hand] offers the familiar pleasures of any John Irving novel a well-turned plot, an antic mixture of comedy and tragedy, and profound observations about the wounds and consolations or romantic and sexual love." Bookpage
"John Irving is proof that literary fiction doesn't have to be ponderous." New York Post
"The Fourth Hand...is shorter than [Irving's other books], certainly, but it also matters less. The instigating tragedy is comparatively minor: Beefcake newscaster Patrick Wallingford's left hand is eaten by an Indian circus lion. Patrick wants a new hand very badly, but his life goes on as before, anyhow: reporting on disasters for a third-rate news channel, sleeping with countless women thanks to his movie-star looks — and never quite landing in the world. He is not a person of depth, and losing his hand does not make him one....Patrick's studliness and essential shallowness differentiate The Fourth Hand from Irving's recent books — and frankly, they make it worse. Irving protagonists are usually painfully sensitive, acutely aware of every nuance of interaction. They feel things more strongly than other people around them. Life tears them up, they take action, they are consumed by worry. They also tend to be sexually inhibited or dysfunctional....The Fourth Hand, by contrast, traces the emotional maturation of a discontented lothario....
"I tend to love Irving — for his dedication to complex, old-fashioned plotting; for his unironic, urgent characters; and for his passion for peculiar, telling details and rhythms of prose. So although there's not much plot in The Fourth Hand, and characters tend to appear briefly and then never return (as I've hinted, Patrick himself isn't much to write home about) — I found kernels of familiar delight here, anyhow." Emily Jenkins, Salon.com
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.
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