cover image Avenue of Mysteries

Avenue of Mysteries

John Irving. Simon & Schuster, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4516-6416-4

Irving’s (In One Person) latest depicts Juan Diego, an aging novelist on a pilgrimage to the Philippines and set on fulfilling a promise he made in his childhood to a dying friend. Juan Diego was a “dump kid,” living with his sister, Lupe, in a shack in Mexico among the families who sort refuse for anything of value. But Juan Diego was exceptional, a self-taught reader who seemed fated for more. Through vivid dreams that Juan Diego has as a result of becoming confused about his medication while on a meandering journey to Manila, Irving relates his escape from his humble childhood. Irving fans will recognize similarities with past work: a circus, ambiguous parentage, a child with supernatural powers, various Christian churches, and a transvestite all play major roles. But while these elements may appear recycled, the protagonist’s journey does feels new. Diehard Irving fans will likely enjoy this latest, but those without such loyalties might be better served reading (or rereading) A Prayer for Owen Meany. (Nov.)