Saturday, December 12, 2015

Avenue of Mysteries; John Irving


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.

3/5 stars
(review copy)

18 comments:

  1. How disappointing - I had high hopes for this book.

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  2. I used to be a huge fan of Irving, but then... well... I started reading his 2005 book "Until I Find You" and I just gave up. He waffles and wanders and goes off topic and adds more characters and their stories to extreme. I kept losing the thread of the story. I couldn't finish reading it and I haven't tried to read any of his books since.

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    1. I liked Irvings' earlier books much better than his last few. I struggled with this one and it took me much longer to complete than normal.

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  3. Ugh...I'm such a huge Irving fan, but the premise of this one just hasn't appealed to me. I downloaded the sample and loved the writing, but then started hearing rumblings that this wasn't doing it for some Irving fans. Will probably still hold off.

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  4. I've only read one by Irving (A Prayer For Owen Meany), which I absolutely loved. Read it twice and it was just as good, if not better the second time around. I've tried some of his others, but have never read more than a chapter or two before giving up. I think I'll pass on this one.

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  5. I love Irving, but this just doesn't sounds like a book for me :(

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  7. I don't think my first comment posted! Anyway, I thought it was a very strange read. I liked the dream sequences as well. Some parts I loved, other parts I hated.Did not like Lupe at all!

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    1. I'll be curious to read your review. Yes, not a fan of Lupe either.

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  8. The plot of this one sounds so interesting. I tend to really love books about books and I also usually like Magical Realism.

    I have never read anything by John Irving but I want to give him a try.

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    1. Brian, you may like this one since I am NOT a fan of magical realism:(

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  9. I am sorry this one wasn't better for you, Diane. I don't know if it would be for me either.

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    1. I'll be curious to see what others think of it Wendy.

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  10. I'm a die-hard Irving fan and I must say, I enjoyed this one. There was so much that was familiar - the usual Irving tropes - but he manages to reinvent them this time in a way that he didn't/couldn't in In One Person.

    I gave it four stars - I was hovering between 3 and 4 but ultimately the character of Lupe pushed me up - she was brilliant and a true Irving gem.

    I just posted my review today (having finished the book three weeks ago!) - like you, I found it a tricky one to review.

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