Sunday, November 15, 2015

Avenue of Mysteries

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving
Simon & Schuster: 11/3/15
eBook review copy; 480 pages
ISBN-13: 9781451664164

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving is a highly recommended story of a man looking back at his childhood while navigating a trip overseas.

Currently Juan Diego Guerrero, 54, is a recently retired professor and writer with a limp from a childhood accident. He is taking Lopressor for his blood pressure and experiments with Viagra. He lives in Iowa but in Avenue of Mysteries he is going on a trip to the Philippines. As Juan Diego travels, he dreams, and in his dreams he is 14 and his sister Lupe is 13. During his trip, his dreams take Juan Diego back in time and tell the story of his childhood.

Many years ago he and Lupe grew up as dump kids in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was a self-taught reader and interpreter for his sister, whose speech no one else could understand or interpret. Lupe is known for her ability to read minds, which she freely shares while Juan Diego translates to those around them. In these dreams, he and Lupe freely discuss their problems with the Catholic Church, their prostitute mother, their unknown fathers, and love of dogs.

While traveling he meets two women, Miriam and Dorothy, who he thinks are a mother and daughter. He lusts after both of them and they assist him in his journey, in a manner of speaking. There is a lot of sudden naps, pill dosage juggling and sex in the present day.

First and foremost the quality of the actual writing is excellent, which helps facilitate following the present and past story lines. For me, the dream segments, which take you back to Juan Diego's childhood, are much better than the present day travels with the eerie women. Admittedly, I grew tired of the sex-capades and simply kept reading to learn about what happened in his childhood and to confirm what I thought about the two women.

For Irving fans there are going to be many themes repeated here that have shown up in previous novels. Those who are new to Irving may struggle a bit with these themes; specifically, anyone who is a practicing Catholic might want to pass this one. I'd have to reread some of his earlier books, but this time around it felt excessively critical of Catholicism.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Simon & Schuster for review purposes.

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