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Avenue of Mysteries

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  12,499 ratings  ·  1,992 reviews
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 tra
Hardcover, 460 pages
Published November 3rd 2015 by Simon Schuster
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Karen Eliot I think Amelia is correct but a photo very like this is also described in Slaughterhouse Five and since Vonnegut was a writer Irving admired and learn…moreI think Amelia is correct but a photo very like this is also described in Slaughterhouse Five and since Vonnegut was a writer Irving admired and learned from I think it was a little homage to him (either the first time, or maybe both times). (less)

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Average rating 3.26  · 
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 ·  12,499 ratings  ·  1,992 reviews

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Angela M
I've been trying to read this book for ten days . That's very unlike me as usually I read a couple of books a week. At first I thought it was because I've been busy with visiting friends , appointments and just had a lot going on . The truth of the matter is that I just am not crazy about this book and every time I picked it up I just couldn't read very much of it . That's hard for me to say as I have read and really liked and even loved most of John Irving's novels. I really wanted to like it a ...more
B the BookAddict
Avenue of Mysteries focuses on the life of one Juan Diego, a Mexican/American who grew up in a Mexican garbage dump, an orphanage and a circus. The plot centres on his life as a fourteen year old with his sister, Lupe, whose language only he can understand and also: Juan Diego as a crippled fifty four year old writer/former teacher who has a problem with the social attitudes of the Catholic Church. Featuring in the story is an in-training Jesuit turned gay who is in love with a transvestite, a l ...more
Elyse  Walters
Aug 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
I kept thinking..."what's wrong with me"? The story felt a little flat. I kept hoping tires would be filled soon so I'd joy the ride...and I did....'somewhat'.

Between a virgin shop, mannequins that looked pregnant, .... with dialogue debating
if it's a sex doll or religious doll ....and debate to snuggle a plastic virgin doll...
(but feet would need to be amputated from the pedestal in order to do so), not only
does the mannequin look like a misplaced literary character in a novel--so does this n
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
(DNF @ 15%) Irving’s lost his touch. I hate to say it because he’s one of my favorites, but this feels like a lukewarm rehashing of previous material in a setting better suited to T.C. Boyle. Juan Diego is a neurotic writer, obsessed with taking his beta-blockers and Viagra and perving on women old and young. During his childhood in a Mexico slum he was known as the “dump reader” for his love of books. Now an Irving-esque middle-aged writer (with an Indian circus novel to his credit, to boot), h ...more
da AL
What happened?! Considering the prominent author and colossal publisher -- why wasn't this book edited better?! So much word-for-word repetition, too many self-indulgent generalities about what novelists are supposed to be like, and a protagonist more sentimental than profoundly caring enough about his dear ones to make me fall in love them through his narrative. Thank goodness for audiobook reader Armando Duran who can make the back of a cereal box sound like fine literature. ...more
Jul 10, 2015 rated it liked it
I have been reading John Irving since my early teens--so well over thirty years now--and I read and re-read all of his books through Owen Meany. Those books (especially GARP, HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE, CIDER HOUSE, and OWEN MEANY) had a massive impact on me. I adored John Irving from the very first book of his that I encountered. That adoration kept me reading everything he wrote after Owen Meany--I just stopped re-reading, and the books stopped rocking my world the way they had before, though I alway ...more
Greg Zimmerman
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
(First appeared at http://www.thenewdorkreviewofbooks.co...)

There's no pulling punches on this one: John Irving's new novel, Avenue of Mysteries, is bad. It's my least favorite of all the books of his I've read — which is 10 of his 14 novels. Yes, indeed, Avenue of Mysteries takes its place at the butt end.

It's a nearly focus-less, spaghetti-at-the-wall story, but with a totally cliché overarching theme of the intersection of dreams and memories. An aging writer named Juan Diego travels to the
Jul 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nuh-uh
Has enough time passed to discuss this travesty yet?


To a dyed-in-the wool Irving fan, the experience is way too painful to relive.
Ron Charles
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Now 73, John Irving is clearly in a retrospective, if not autobiographical, mood. Like “Last Night in Twisted River” (2009) and “In One Person” (2012), his new novel — his 14th — is fascinated with the portrait of the artist as a young man: How does a child progress along the avenue of mysteries that leads to becoming an adult storyteller?

The complex response evolves from two distinct, but mingled story lines. In the present tense, we follow the beloved teacher and novelist Juan Diego Guerrero a
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
John Irving does enjoy poking fun at religion, especially the Catholic Church. In “Avenue of Mysteries”, he uses Juan Diego and Lupe; dump kids (aka the scavengers) of Guerrroro Mexico as fodder for his themes.

The children live in the dump and are self-educated. They love their lives at the dump. Destiny versus free will is a huge theme throughout the novel. Lupe can read minds and reads the past, but she’s not so great at seeing the future.
Lupe thinks she sees the destiny of Juan and herself,
Sep 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I won this book through a GR giveaway, and I read every word.

I am mentioning this only because some of the reviews I've read here are from those who didn't finish. I did. Now not saying this is one of Mr. Irving's finest novels, because I don't believe it is. It has a little of everything in it: writer as MC; worries on dying and death; when to take a Lopressor or a Viagra. The past, present, and ruminations on all those who come and go - mostly go - as we move through life. AND magical realism,
Nov 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving was a beautifully written novel not only about mysteries but faith, family, loyalty, and the miraculous. When we first meet Juan Diego and his sister Lupe, we are reminded of the revered and beloved Our Lady of Guadalupe, with legend being that she appeared many times to Mexican peasant Juan Diego in 1531 on the Hill of Tepeyac outside of Mexico City asking for a church to be built at that site in her honor. After a series of apparitions, Juan Diego returned to ...more
Helene Jeppesen
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5/5 stars.
I didn't think I was going to like this book as much as I did, simply because of the vague synopsis as well as the fact that I wasn't really in the mood for a heavy and complicated book. It turns out that I was after all, or maybe it's just because it was written by John Irving that I loved it so much.
John Irving is slowly becoming one of my favourite authors. If you've read him before, you know that he writes unique characters and well-crafted stories that questions things and phe
Oct 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Juan Diego, along with his sister Lupe, was a ‘dump kid’ in Mexico, scavenging for items to sell or use in the city dump. Among the things Diego had rescued from the fire were books, many in English, which were thrown out by the Church. Diego learned to read both Spanish and English with these books.

Now, half a century later, Diego is an established and respected writer. All of his friends from his days as a dump kid are dead including Lupe and he has health problems. He is on a pilgrimage in t
Sep 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
Avenue of Mysteries - like the past several Irving novels (In One Person; A Night in Twisted River) - is simply a different Irving novel. In the middle of reading AoM I picked up Hotel New Hampshire just to see if I could tell what the difference was. It's lots, I guess - the tone, the dialogue, the characterization, the length, the pathos. Irving (I believe) once referred to himself as "a New England novelist" - and perhaps this is why AoM didn't click for me: most of the story takes place in M ...more
Greg Dhuyvettrr
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Though I have read every novel John Irving has written, I no longer believed that he had the capacity to write a novel with the scope, humanity, and heartbreaking beauty of Garp, Hotel New Hampshire, Cider House, and (to a much lesser extent) Owen Meany. I enjoyed a few of the later works, but I thought that the writer had lost the ability to make me love a novel. Avenue of Mysteries has proved me wrong, to my great joy (and tears while reading).

For a novel about death, it is filled with joy; fo
Jul 17, 2015 rated it liked it
I am really so done with this book, as it took me for. freaking. ever. to finish. It was Irving-ian through and through with the same types of characters and tropes we've seen in Irving's novels before. This isn't my least favorite novel of his but it almost is, however I gave it three stars because the setting is fascinating and unique. Overall, I just don't know that I'd recommend this to anyone but die hard Irving fans. ...more
Dec 15, 2015 added it
No star rating, because I just couldnt bring myself to finish this one.

John Irving has always been one of my favourite authors. I have absolutely adored everything I have ever read by him, savoured every word and devoted whole days to just sitting and reading his books. I have read about a third of this one and found myself heartbroken because I just cannot bear to pick it up again. Admittedly, I was scared off a little by the reviews, but they are correct. This is a bit of a stinker.

Our main ch
John Irving is an excellent writer and except for his short stories I've enjoyed everything he ever wrote - until now. I'm afraid I have to say that I really didn't like this book. This is strange in fact because it had all the classic Irving elements - orphans, prostitutes, flatulating dogs, a circus, the playing-around with the "autobigraphical" elements etc. There were characters dying in absurd situations but I didn't laugh at them as I normalley would. The childhood part is usually the part ...more
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
The book starts slowly, but by about 1/4 of the way in, I was hooked. The story toggles back and forth between present day (and wakefulness) and the past (and dreams/memories). The parts set in the past are certainly the most interesting, and where the real story lies. Juan Diego and his sister Lupe are characters who will stay with me, just like many other Irving creations. In fact, I looked forward to Juan Diego's dreams/memories when Lupe's pronouncements and mind-reading were central to the ...more
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-reads
Juan Diego left before I was ready. I'd come to like him very much and will miss him.

He was a writer who started life in Oaxaca, Mexico, but then spent most of his life in Iowa.

He was a man who rejected the tag Mexican-American because he felt he'd lived two distinctly different lives; his American self was not shaped by his Mexican childhood. He was either an American from Iowa, or a Mexican from Oaxaca, but not both at the same time.

He was a man who had suffered many losses. It's best to let h
Alicia Brooks
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
John Irving is back with a wonderful book full of all the magic you would expect... except this time the novel takes place in Asia. A writer relives his past in Mexico as he takes a trip to Manila and meets a few interesting folks along the way. Familiar themes such as the Catholic church, fatherless kids, and "inappropriate" mothers all live in this wonderful novel. I laughed and I cried. Lovely. ...more
Michael Robotham
Feb 08, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm a huge John Irving fan and there were scenes and characters in Avenue of Mysteries, which proved yet again what a wonderful writer he has been. Unfortunately, the story and premise didn't hold together for me. I loved the childhood material, but wasn't engaged in the present day story.
I will continue to read Irving because he has always been a literary hero to me.
Anna-Marie Mackenzie
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is Irving's best novel since the wonderful "A Prayer for Owen Meany". He revisits similar themes, but with new and surprising characters and stories. He lets us know what the big plot points will be, but how they unravel is still beautiful and smart and touching. Imagination is sometimes more powerful than reality. Imagination is sometimes our only tool to survive. I am so pleased that I received an advance reading copy of this novel. ...more
N.L. Brisson
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Avenue of Mysteries is a Chagall. John Irving has painted a Chagall with words, a Catholic Chagall (not sure how Marc Chagall who was Jewish would feel about that). Of course the Chagall made most famous in the movies is the one with the goat and the wedding couple defying gravity. Irving has geckos, Virgin Marys, “dump” children, a gay couple, lots of Jesuits and some skywalkers in this very Chagall-esque novel. It’s a complicated story line with plenty of whimsy and deep philosophical contempl ...more
Jul 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: giveaways
* I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways. *

One star here, based on how completely this book annoyed me. If I weren't asked to review it as a giveaway, I definitely would have quit. I can't see any value in my having persevered to finish. Usually one star indicates there are no positive aspects of a book for me, and that's not quite true here. I loved the 1970s-era Oaxaca backdrop in which half the book was situated. Books with a strong sense of place usually pull me in, and
Thomas DeWolf
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Caveat to begin... John Irving is my "go to" author. A writer I think about often and enjoy what he writes. When I think about my own career as a writer I think of him... how his first three books didn't sell much, and then he wrote Garp. So I imagine writing my own Garp. And I feel connected to John Irving as a result, and enjoy what he writes.

This one was more challenging for me than the last few... tougher to get through the beginning, which is often a sign that the rest of the story will no
Feb 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
Torture. Raw and agonizing torture is the best way I can describe this book. I made two decisions while trying to finish this piece of garbage: #1) After two decades of reading John Irving and even calling him my favorite author, I am done. He hasn't written a decent book since A Widow for One Year, and I can't continue to read his crap because I want to be a loyal reader out of love for Cider House Rules, The World According to Garp, and A Prayer for Owen Meany. #2) I must do away with my stupi ...more
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Meh. Irving's lost his muse are the first words that occur to me as I try to analyze why this book just didn't appeal to me all that much.

I've been reading, and loving, Irving's works ever since Garp, but lately, he's just not all that interesting. Seems like he's struggling to keep it alive, and it's just not working.

I had a notion, while I was reading, that Juan Diego was more autobiographical than fictional and it made me uncomfortable and rather sad.

I think I'm done with Irving -- the last
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JOHN IRVING was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942. His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968, when he was twenty-six. He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, and coached wrestling until he was forty-seven.
Mr. Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for his novel The World According to Garp. He received an O. Henry Award

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