John Irving returns to the themes that established him as one of our most admired and beloved authors in this absorbing novel of fate and memory.
As we grow older - most of all, in what we remember and what we dream - we live in the past. Sometimes we live more vividly in the past than in the present.
As an older man, Juan Diego will take a trip to the Philippines, but what travels with him are his dreams and memories; he is most alive in his childhood and early adolescence in Mexico. "An aura of fate had marked him," John Irving writes of Juan Diego. "The chain of events, the links in our lives - what leads us where we're going, the courses we follow to our ends, what we don't see coming, and what we do - all this can be mysterious, or simply unseen, or even obvious."
Avenue of Mysteries is the story of what happens to Juan Diego in the Philippines, where what happened to him in the past - in Mexico - collides with his future.
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Surreal Mind Painting
Juan Diego, a 50 year old novelist travels to the Philippines to keep a promise he made forty years ago to a dying hippie as a 14 year old boy living in a garbage dump in Mexico with his younger sister/savant Lupe, who reads peoples minds (though only Juan can understand her.) It is a touching tale about a brilliant but reclusive dreamer who has lost everyone he ever loved as the years have gone by. He is a dreamer, because about half the book is narrated in a dream state. And believe me, like a narcoleptic, this guy can fall asleep on a dime,and always gets a bucks worth of dream meat every time he nods off. There are some very funny dialogues between Don Juan and Lupe during these dream/ flashbacks (between the now and the then). And if that's not confusing enough, when Juan arrives in the Philippines he is immediately adopted by a gorgeous mother and daughter team, who are certainly not what they appear to be (even after the book they remain so). The only way I can describe the story is that it melts together nicely like a surreal hot caramel sauce ladled over a real world frozen custard, both rich,and wonderful. To date, this is my favorite Irving book.
Lupe, was a hoot, particularly because of the great voice the narrator gave her. You could not help but to laugh
Absolutely. It was a big read, but it still went too fast.
My favorite book of the year!
A whole new direction. A "first" novel, from a master. I have to re-think the whole body of Irving's work, in light of these ways of thinking. The most seductive invitation of my intelligent life . . .
Avenue of Mysteries was a strange and wonderful journey. It had the mysticism of Prayer for Owen Meany and the imagination of Son of a Circus. It reminded me of early John Iriving books as I never knew what the next chapter was going to bring. Lupe was, by far, my favorite John Irving character to date. If you are not an avid follower of John Irving's work, this one might leave you confused and from some other reviews I read, possibly offended. If you are a follower, you know that the confusion is part of the journey and what others deem offensive is just his blunt and honest way to describing things as they are. For Irving fans, Avenue of Mysteries is a must -- for those new to Irving, bring an open mind and rest assured that it will all come together in the end. I can't wait to listen again!
even a sub-par John Irving novel is better than what most other novelists produce. So giving a star rating is tough for me; I guess four stars is about right. His usual techniques shine through the strange story leaving his fingerprints all over the novel. He is brilliant at constantly moving his readers through time yet never losing them. True to form his protagonist is the most mundane of the characters, allowing all the other quirky, bizarre, or at least interesting characters in the story to come into clear view. Again, he is a master of such elements. For variety's sake, the words "New Hampshire" don't even appear anywhere in the book. He brings us into colorful and vibrant Mexico and the Philippines, a nice change. Irving's wry and not subtle frequent mentions of just how autobiographical a novelist's works are were spot on funny and maintain the air of mystery (although I'm willing to bet he himself is on beta- blockers and Viagra, because he talks about them incessantly.) He has fun with his "fictional or real life?" politics, too. Of course there's weird unsettling sex in this one like most of his other books. The narrator was great, although both the voice and the character of Lupe became grating. Dorothy and Miriam also got on my nerves fast. I would have liked more explanation by the end but I was still satisfied. I would recommend "In One Person" or "Twisted River" before this one, but Irving fans will still find lots of enjoyment here.
While I have enjoyed some of his books, I thought this one was tedious beyond belief. The story was okay, but it was like picking eggshells out of egg white-just as you grasped it, it slipped away and you were in goo againwould have. If I heard, "his former teachers ,his former student, or the Iowan" one more time I would go nuts! All the preoccupation with penises was wearing , too. The book could have been about 6 hours shorter, and it would have passable. As it was, it was tedious and boring.
Reading allows me to travel through time; to visit the world's unique and stunning places. To become somebody I am not... It is glorious.
This book is identifiably Irving -- a big read sprinkled with almost farcical comedy and puzzling drama. In many of his books he explores themes revolving around Catholicism, prostitution, poverty, orphans, and transgender individuals. This book is no different. The characters are complicated and hilarious, the story is at times convoluted and often deep. The book makes you think. At moments I loved it and hated to push stop; at times I hated it and didn't know if I would finish. It challenged me and I loved that.
The negative for me: It was not as full of heart and joy as A Prayer for Owen Mean, Hotel New Hampshire or The World According to Garp. Owen Meany is in my top 5 favorite books of all time though, so it would be hard to meet that burden.
The positive for me: The book is character driven and Irving allows Juan Diego and his sister Lupe to be odd, brusque, and often churlish. Neither of these children are adorable little children who inspire the sappy heart to fall in love and feel all the emotions one would expect when encountering the orphans of poverty. They are flawed and funny. Lupe, at times, is profane. She serves the story in the same way as Shakespeare's fools propel his works. More than once I laughed or gasped out loud at the things this young girl said. I loved her!
Armando Duran was brilliant. He reads Irving's words with a subtle accent that is slight enough to give this English reader the perception that he is a Spanish speaker -- but also subtle enough not to offend Spanish speakers who may hear any improper accent. He lends the different characters slightly differing voices which allow them to stand separately. And he does all of it with little emotion which feels appropriate to this novel. I thought he was a first-rate reader and matched well to this iconic American storyteller.
As with most of Mr Irving's recent novels this one rambles on a bit and leaves a few too many unanswered questions for my taste but I am a big fan of his and found it entertaining enough to keep listening. The narrator is superb.
John Irving must like his own writing.
Armando Duran has a wonderful voice. This book was really well-read, but very poorly written.
All of them. I'd cut all of them and start over.
I did not enjoy this book at all. The main character is what I think Irving must think of himself - an aging author who gets lots of play from young women and takes Viagra while reminiscing about his youth and how extraordinary he is. Reading this book is like getting stuck talking to your spouse's sleazy older male boss at a holiday party after he's had a few. Pompous, chauvinistic, and creepy. Not recommended.
A man's got to do what a man's got to do..
I usually like John Irving's books, but this time i felt badly let down. The story is convoluted, insignificant , at times funny , but also boring. It seems that the writer had no inspiration, momentum or pleasure in writing it. I stopped reading it half way through.
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