Avenue of Mysteries; John Irving
Simon & Schuster - 2015
Avenue of Mysteries was a hard book to read and a harder book to review. The story covers (2) time periods 1970s and 2011.
Juan Diego Guerrero grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico. The child of a prostitute, he was abandoned and lived his early life at a dump. He was looked after by the man who ran the dump, this same man also ran over Juan's foot at the age of 14, making him a cripple for life. Living at the dump, Juan develops a love of books and reading. He collects every book he can get his hands on and also manages to teach himself both English and Spanish. As an adult he becomes a professor. Juan had a sister named Lupe who is a year younger than him. Lupe claims she can see the future and know what people are thinking. She dies an untimely death.
Fast forward and Juan is a retired professor. At 54, he seems like a much older man. Walking with a limp, taking blood pressure meds and Viagra , sometimes mixing up the two pills and resulting in vivid dreams of his dump yard days. He takes a trip to the Philippines to fulfill a promise he made 40 years earlier and to do a book tour in the process.
Avenue of Mysteries is a blend of fiction, fantasy, supernatural and you might even say magical realism. Covering the past and present through dreams and flashbacks, my favorite parts of this book were the dream memories. There is an odd cast of characters: prostitute, priest, draft dogger, transvestite etc. Some of the characters struggle with issues of faith, and Juan sleeps a lot and dreams a lot. Although in some ways I guess I shouldn't be surprised but the oddness of this story, as i've read many books by this author, this one just wasn't one of his best works of fiction. IMO This book is definitely not for all reader,s but I suspect most Irving fans will be anxious to try it like I did.