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I've read, and loved, several John Irving novels. They aren't easy reads and the subject matter is often heavy (incest, infidelity, physical deformity.) I've found I can't fully appreciate an Irving novel until I've completely finished it and taken a few days to process the whole thing.
I don't want to give away too much because I want you to read this book, but I do want to give you a brief summary: A man loses one of his hands in an accident and when he receives a hand transplant, a relationship develops between him and the donor's wife. No room for weirdness or heavy subject matter there, right? Ha!
In typical Irving fashion, this story is bizarre and made me uncomfortable at times. It has stuck with me more than the rest of his, though I'm not totally sure why. The story is an investigation into the power of grief, love, and all the "What ifs" we ask when facing tragedy.
What I love about Irving's characters is the same thing that can make his novels tough to get through. His characters often make choices that have me slapping a palm to my forehead. However, the fact that they make questionable choices, makes them more realistic than people in most novels. There isn't always a happy ending or redemption. Sometimes the characters badly suffer the consequences of their actions, even when they had good intentions. I liked the characters in this book a great deal, even when they weren't always likable per se.
Even though this story seemed impossible, it still felt believable. I could understand why things happened the way they did. This is what makes me fall in love with a novel, and John Irving has mastered the skill.