Friday, January 29, 2016

Avenue Of Mysteries by John Irving

Juan Diego is a famous writer, now in his fifties, living, writing and teaching in Iowa.  But that's not where he started.  Juan and his sister, Lupe, were 'dump kids' in Oaxacan, Mexico.  Their mother was a prostitute/cleaning lady for the local priests.  They lived at the dump with the dump boss, who was probably not their father.  Their friends were the dump dogs, feral animals that tended to die early.  Juan and Lupe scavenged the dump.  Juan saved every book he found, and taught himself to read.  This brought him to the attention of the priests.  Lupe could read minds; she knew everything about a person's past although she wasn't as good at knowing the future.  Neither of the children were particularly religious; they didn't feel that the Virgin Mary had come through on her promises.

Avenue Of Mysteries is the story of Juan taking a trip to the Philippines but spending his time remembering his past and all that occurred.  He and Lupe had lived at the dump, at the church's orphanage and at a circus.  All three places left their mark on him.  He eventually left Mexico with his adoptive parents.  Eduardo was a man who wanted to become a priest but fell in love with Flor, who was a transvestite.  Together they left Mexico and took Juan with them to live in Iowa.

In his most recent trip. Juan Diego meets a mysterious mother and daughter pair.  Each is a fan of his work and each is determined to arrange his life and take control of his days.  He goes along with their plans but in reality is consumed with remembering his days with Lupe and what it all meant.

John Irving is an author whom readers either love or dislike intensely.  I'm on the love side of the equation.  Fans will recognize many of his recurring themes; the meaning of love, the inevitability of the future doing what it will with you and the need to understand and validate the lives of those most unlike you.  The typical Irving devices are there; the geographic location of Iowa, transvestite, circus animals and reading.  No one hits the same chords in a reader as Irving and this novel hits those chords again.  This book is recommended for readers interested in the human condition and how our choices affect our lives.

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