Also by this author: Last Night In Twisted River
Published by Simon & Schuster on November 3, 2015
Read synopsis on Goodreads
I received this book for free from the publisher.
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As a diehard John Irving fan, I was thrilled when his latest book showed up on my doorstep courtesy of Simon & Schuster. I’m convinced that there is nothing the man will write that I won’t love and Avenue of Mysteries was no different. Although it wasn’t my favorite book of his so far, I enjoyed it immensely and am pleased that he can remain a top contender for my favorite author.
Avenue of Mysteries is the story of Juan Diego, a boy who grew up in a dump with a mind-reading sister who seemed to know more about Juan Diego’s future than he did. The story starts out with Juan Diego’s trip, as an adult, to Manila, and as the story unfolds we find out why he’s going, what life events got him to where he is, and the major influence the church had on him, for better or for worse. As an adult, he struggles with his identity; the balancing of expectations of others against his own sense of self are in stark contrast to each other, adding a layer of complexity that Irving fans have come to expect (and love). In other words, it’s classic Irving.
It’s impossible to discuss Avenue of Mysteries without talking about the prevalence of religion throughout the book. This is by far the most religious of his works that I have read, and that includes A Prayer for Owen Meany. It’s not that the book is religious, but rather that religion has a profound impact on the characters and Irving holds nothing back in that regard. It is also a difficult book to review without spoiling anything, but fans of Irving will find comfort in some parallels to his previous books. The preoccupation with religion is reminiscent of A Prayer for Owen Meany, while his discussions of the role of personal experience in fiction writing is similar to that in Last Night In Twisted River. Although the story begins in the present, it mostly takes place in the past with Juan Diego reflecting on the major events during his childhood that made him the man that he is today, including the reasons for why he is taking the journey to Manila. And as with all of Irving’s books that I have read, the entire book rests upon one single event that changes the course of the character’s life and ties the story together.Fans of John Irving will find comfort in the topics tackled in Avenue of Mysteries. Click To Tweet
If you’re a fan of Irving, then definitely pick this up but if you are new to the author I don’t recommend this is a starter unless you are ready to dive deeply into the social politics of the church. Avenue of Mysteries is a fairly slow read that requires your full attention, even more so than his previous books. That said, I really enjoyed it and was fascinated by what I learned. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
- “The day women stop reading – that’s the day the novel dies!”
- “Remember, Juan Diego – you are a reader…. There is a life in books, and in the world of your imagination; there is more than the physical world, even here.”
- “…good books were the best protection from evil that Pepe had actually held in his hands – you could not hold faith in Jesus in your hands, not in quite the same way you could hold good books.”
Recommended for: Irving fans and those interested in heavy religiously-based tomes.