I don’t think I’ve ever felt so “meh” after a John Irving book. But this was definitely one that I finished, set down and thought “Well, okay then” rather than continuing to mull the story over for a week or two while everything settled in my brain. Instead, I finished this book a week ago and I’m struggling to remember what it was even about. John Irving books, to be fair, are rarely “about” anything, but that’s okay because they’re driven by fascinating characters in absurd situations. The Fourth Hand has its share of absurdity, but the main character was so profoundly dull that I could barely summon the energy to keep reading about it.
The main characters, whose name I cannot freaking remember although I think it was Patrick, is a TV reporter known as “The Disaster Man”. In true ironic fashion, while reporting on a German zoo, Patrick loses his hand to a tiger. On camera. He becomes a national spectacle at this point, and catches the attention of a rather nutty hand surgeon who wants to perform a hand transplant, as well as a married woman in Wisconsin who wants her husband to donate his hand to Patrick when he dies. Then he does, Patrick gets the hand, falls in love with the wife, and so on.
Like I said, Patrick was just very dull and unlikable. He sleeps with tons of women, and has a reputation as a ladies man pre- and post-tiger incident, but his blandness and general good looks seem to be what draws women to him. I was much more interested in the nutty hand surgeon, his coprophilic dog, his strange son and stranger housekeeper, but they’re not featured much. Instead, it’s all Patrick — he’s just so handsome, and women just won’t leave him alone. I know Irving was making a point, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care by the end of it all.