Rebecca's Reviews > Avenue of Mysteries

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving
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it was ok
bookshelves: read-via-edelweiss, unfinished

(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), he’s on his way back to the Philippines to face his past.

It’s entirely possible Juan Diego’s sister Lupe will turn into an interesting female character, but I didn’t stick around long enough to find out. I looked over the first six chapters several weeks ago and haven’t had any compulsion to return to the book. I particularly disliked Irving’s habit of always referring to his protagonist as “Juan Diego” or “the writer.” Maybe I’ll pick this up again someday, but at this point I’m reading so many other books that excite me that I can’t be bothered to continue.

(Compare to In One Person, which repeats Irving staples but is at least likeable.)
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Reading Progress

July 18, 2015 – Shelved
July 18, 2015 – Shelved as: read-via-edelweiss
August 4, 2015 – Shelved as: unfinished

Comments Showing 1-32 of 32 (32 new)

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message 1: by Jill (new)

Jill Rebecca, how is it so far?


Rebecca Alas, I'm thinking he's lost his touch. Granted, I'm not very far in, but it feels like a lukewarm rehashing of previous material in a new setting.


message 3: by Jill (new)

Jill That's how I've felt with his last book. Thanks


Lolly K Dandeneau darn, another one bites the dust :( I was looking forward to it.


message 5: by Helle (new)

Helle Gosh. I stopped after The Fourth Hand years ago and haven't read him since although he was my favorite author for years.


Rebecca Lolly K Dandeneau wrote: "darn, another one bites the dust :( I was looking forward to it."

Who knows, you might like it, Lolly!


Rebecca Helle wrote: "Gosh. I stopped after The Fourth Hand years ago and haven't read him since although he was my favorite author for years."

I definitely prefer the classics (Owen Meany and Garp, especially).


message 8: by Angela M (new) - added it

Angela M I'm a little disappointed since I plan to read it but just want to be clear . You are rating this 2 stars for one chapter ? Thanks , Rebecca .


Rebecca Angela M wrote: "I'm a little disappointed since I plan to read it but just want to be clear . You are rating this 2 stars for one chapter ? Thanks , Rebecca ."

Ah, according to my Kindle I made it further than I thought -- 15%. I was disappointed to find it so uncompelling. I wouldn't want to put any other fans off trying it. It'll be interesting to see what others think. If the consensus is that it's worth reading, I'll try it again in the future.


message 10: by Angela M (new) - added it

Angela M Thanks , Rebecca . I plan on reading it just because he was always a favorite of mine too but the last couple were not favorites. I just wanted to be clear on how much you had read before deciding it was a 2 star read. I probably won't read until October but now I'm curious! Thanks .


message 11: by Carol (new)

Carol This is precisely why I will not pre-order a new John Irving book anymore. I have been burned a couple times. His last 4 books have gone from awful to mediocre. I keep longing for the John Irving of the past where he wrote such wonderful books like Owen Meany, Cider House, Garp.... so I will give this one a pass. A tip however to all reading this that loved those old books - I have found an author that reminded me of THAT John Irving - read the GroVant series by Tim Sandlin. It is a 4 book series starting with 1) Skipped Parts, 2) Sorrow Floats, 3) Social Blunders, & 4) Lydia. His writing style is so much like early John Irving.


Rebecca I'd never heard of Sandlin. Thanks for the heads-up, Carol!


cameron I agree completely. I used to pre-oder every one he wrote and was never disappointed. I'm waiting until this costs a dollar used. What a shame.


message 14: by Donna (new) - rated it 1 star

Donna Thanks carol for the recommendation. Glad to see I'm not the only one missing the John Irving originals !


Keegan You nailed it on the head when you called it a "lukewarm rehashing of previous materials". I wasn't sure he was intentionally doing this because of the autobiographical theme and discussion throughout the novel. It also seems as if the recycling of previous works ( esp. "A Prayer for Owen Meany" and "Cider House Rules") was completely intentional. It's hard to say, but the end was definitely a bummer!


message 16: by Ken (new)

Ken Hulse I am hAving the same problem. I can't seem to want to finish this book. It's just not interesting


Catherine I have to respectfully disagree. This book made me scream with laughter and sob with genuine sadness. The characters are well-formed and I cared deeply about each one of them.


Rebecca Catherine wrote: "I have to respectfully disagree. This book made me scream with laughter and sob with genuine sadness. The characters are well-formed and I cared deeply about each one of them."

I may try again someday, but I've been let down by Irving's later work and would be more likely to go back to his classics.


message 19: by Angela M (new) - added it

Angela M Rebecca, as much as I have loved Irving's books in the past , I'm with you on this . I got less than half way through. I kind of felt badly, like I was abandoning a friend .


Rebecca I felt the same way about Margaret Atwood's and Sebastian Faulks's latest books (I think you're reading the latter now...).


message 21: by Angela M (new) - added it

Angela M I am reading the Faulks book but put it aside to read one for a buddy read. I'll get back to it soon . I do like it but am only a third of the way in .


Roger Agree with you on this review. The Indian circus should have been a hint. They were by far my least favorite of Irving's novel and this resembled them.


Alice I agree....so much of this felt like recycling of standard Irving material.


Catherine Alice wrote: "I agree....so much of this felt like recycling of standard Irving material."
"Standard Irving material" is my favorite thing to read. I'm sticking my my revies: Avenue of Mysteries is right up there with Owen Meany.


Catherine Keegan wrote: "You nailed it on the head when you called it a "lukewarm rehashing of previous materials". I wasn't sure he was intentionally doing this because of the autobiographical theme and discussion through..." The ends of Irving's books are often intentionally "a bummer", don't you think? That's part of the range of emotions his characters evoke!


Rebecca When I saw Irving speak some years ago he said that he writes the last line of a novel first, so he knows what he's aiming for. I thought that was an interesting strategy. I never got to the last line of this one, of course...


Rachel I am reading it right now and sadly - I agree.


Nesdamycart I finished the book, because I have that never-ending hope in all books that the end will be worth it. It was not. I too am disappointed in his later work s - still working on Twisted River, after 2 false starts. This one, I enjoyed Juan Diego's past memories, but the present with Miriam and Dorothy was just...irritating. How he allows himself to be bossed around by both the women AND his former student, Clark French, was just annoying. The irritation is the most lasting impression of this book for me. Too bad. Where did the Owen Meany, Cider House Rules, Garp Irving go? This will be the last hardcover Irving I buy, I can't trust they'll be worth the price anymore.


Rebecca Oh, definitely. Wait and buy secondhand paperbacks if anything.


Emilio Motta I totally quote the "lukewarm rehashing of previous material" line. That is exactly how it felt for me. It kills me because I am a BIG Irving's fan and I felt quite betrayed this time.
In this book he goes over topics he already went through more convincingly in other novels.


Carol Elliott I think, In One Person is a smoother read, more predictability.


Rebecca Carol wrote: "I think, In One Person is a smoother read, more predictability."

Yes, I enjoyed In One Person.


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