The Fourth Hand Hardcover – 2001
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Top Customer Reviews
Nobody does set pieces that are both funny and poignant, and full of both bitterness and love, than Irving. He does it again here. His description of Wallingford's tryst with a gum-chewing makeup girl, and its attendant complications, is worth the price of the book. Irving's side of the mouth dismissal of cable news as shallow, callous, insincere, and intrusive is right on the mark, too, it seems to me.
Irving's usual devices, maiming, violent death, the love of a child, wild animals (lions this time, not bears) and circuses are in evidence here. Nobody understands the chaos that is life better than Irving, but his optimism and his obvious love for his characters make that recognition fun and instructive, not off-putting.
I heard this book on tape. Jason Culp, who reads this audio book is very effective. Finally, I give this Irving outing 4 stars out of 5 instead of 5 out of 5 only because of his obsession with Wallingford's hand. Although Irving has used traumatic amputations in other books, they have never before been the central theme of any one of them, as is the case in "The Fourth Hand." In fact, it is for this reason that I (uncharacteristically for a John Irving novel) waited as long as I did to read it. I highly recommended it, anyway.
As it turned out, I loved having this story read to me. I loved the voice of the narrator and particularly his interpretation of Doris Clausen's Middle American tones. There are many (MANY) points in the story where I would have been compelled to put a book down forcefully, never to be picked up again, had I actually been reading it. However, instead of yanking the cassette out of the player and hurling it out onto the highway, I laughed. I ENJOYED myself. This book is chock full of situations just as smugly and predictably unpredictable as the worst of Mr. Irving's MANY authorial excesses, but it just doesn't hurt a bit when you don't have to read it yourself. Through the voice of Mr. Culp, what I am sure is a mediocre, self-conscious, meandering mess on paper is magically transformed into light, charming entertainment with a touch of real pathos.
Once the road trip was over, I saw the paperback of _Widow For One Year_ and thought I'd give actually reading Mr. Irving another try. I got about 4 pages into it before abandoning it. I liked _Owen Meany_ and _Garp_ and _Cider House_ - you know, his GOOD books. _Fourth Hand_ is probably not one of the good books, but it makes a delightful traveling companion nonetheless.
Wallingford has had an unsuccessful marriage and numerous relationships with women, mostly initiated by them. He is used to this kind of attention, so he does not grow up emotionally. But for the widow, he seems to experience some personal and professional growth.
Unfortunately, the plot simply is not that interesting. It is hard to connect with this character. He is neither admirable nor a complete jerk. I suppose that is Irving's way of portraying Everyman. At any rate the plot crawls along in a ho-hum pace and ends enigmatically, but hopefully. This is not a work like Garp or Cider House Rules and disappoints.
Most recent customer reviews
John Irving IS my favorite writer and I was not disappointed with this one! Just love itPublished 21 months ago by Simon Larsen
Great weekend read. Can't take the book seriously, it is definitely "tongue-in-cheek" humour. My first John Irving novel and I can't wait to read another one.Published on Feb. 6 2006 by Lee-Ann
This book clinches it -- John Irving is very overrated. This book was mildly entertaining at first but quickly became tedious, irritating, and a waste of time to read. Read morePublished on Oct. 5 2003
This book could certainly win the 'Write a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy in the style of a John Irving novel.' competition, but other than that couldn't win anything. Read morePublished on June 18 2003 by James Frohnhofer
this book was good but it didn't knock my socks off. mr irving is one of my favorite writers but this novel seemed like it was rushed to the printers. Read morePublished on June 5 2002 by tim camas
At a mere 300-some pages, this feels like a short story from Irving. It didn't have the broad sweep of the history of the world that is so characteristic of Irving's works from... Read morePublished on May 10 2002
This is quite clearly the worse book I have ever read. Was this some sort of joke or was Irving also high on the drug that was administered to the main character when he lost his... Read morePublished on April 29 2002
Dear John, - Strange, but excellent writing (as usual)...You've given me so much to think about: the role of the press (TV_CNN) in our society; the meaning of marriage, sex, love;... Read morePublished on April 28 2002 by Elizabeth Harvey
I can't believe how bad this book was! It was so painful for me to read it. I've read every single John Irving book, and this book was so bad that I will no longer read another... Read morePublished on April 20 2002 by N. Cho