Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving

Avenue of Mysteries by John IrvingReading John Irving is like seeing an old friend – there are tricks and troupes you know he’s going to bring out, you may roll your eyes or relished them with joy, but it’s comforting to know they’re there. So in answer to your question, yes Avenue of Mysteries is your same old John Irving, lots of dogs, penises, odd children and mother complexes.

So while Avenue of Mysteries is readily identifiable as Irving, it is not my favorite Irving. I’m fully in the camp of Owen Meany and Garp when it comes to Irving. In Avenue of Mysteries Irving branches out by writing about two ‘dump kids’, Juan Diego and Lupe, in Mexico who go on to join the circus. Juan Diego grows up to be a great American writer. Ok, so when I put it that way, Avenue of Mysteries does sound like an Irving novel!

I liked the parts about the children’s childhood, but at least half the novel deals with a jet-lagged and pill popping Juan Diego in the Philippines. Oh boy, these parts did not work for me. There was a tad too much magical realism and dream-like states for my taste.

Who would like this book? If you are a die-hard fan of Irving you will likely read this novel regardless of what I say. In recent years, I’ve been reading less of Irving. I no longer grab every book he writes. For me nothing will ever compare to Garp and Owen Meany, and yet periodically I go back to his work. I love Irving’s writing style – so clean and crisp – and I felt that from the first pages of this book. But I might suggest that this book could be a hot or miss for dedicated Irving readers.


  1. Well, that’s relief! Irving was one of my favourite authors for years but several recent novels have failed to hit the spot for me. Last Night in Twisted River seemed to see him back on form and it sounds as though he’s stayed there with this one..

  2. I haven’t read enough of Irving to make any sweeping statements, but I tend to agree that his older books seem to be better. I’m on the fence about this one. I think there are still a couple of older ones I’d go for first.

  3. So…I’ve been waffling on this one. I’m the exact kind of Irving fan you just described. Loved Owen Meany and Garp (and some of his more recent ones, but not all) and the premise to this one just doesn’t appeal to me. But, then I sampled it and his writing pulled me in, but now I’m thinking I may not want to devote myself to the whole thing after reading your review. You’ve put into words exactly my fear about this one 🙂

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