Avenue of Mysteries

Avenue of Mysteries

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.

In Avenue of Mysteries, Juan Diego—a fourteen-year-old boy, who was born and grew up in Mexico—has a thirteen-year-old sister. Her name is Lupe, and she thinks she sees what's coming—specifically, her own future and her brother's. Lupe is a mind reader; she doesn't know what everyone is thinking, but she knows what most people are thinking. Regarding what has happened, as opposed to what will, Lupe is usually right about the past; without your telling her, she knows all the worst things that have happened to you.

Lupe doesn't know the future as accurately. But consider what a terrible burden it is, if you believe you know the future—especially your own future, or, even worse, the future of someone you love. What might a thirteen-year-old girl be driven to do, if she thought she could change the future?

As an older man, Juan Diego will take a trip to the Philippines, but what travels with him are his dreams and memories; he is most alive in his childhood and early adolescence in Mexico. 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.

Avenue of Mysteries is the story of what happens to Juan Diego in the Philippines, where what happened to him in the past—in Mexico—collides with his future.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 480 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451664164 | 
  • November 2015
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Avenue of Mysteries includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Juan Diego—a Mexican-born writer—leaves his home in Iowa and heads to the Philippines in order to honor a promise made long ago. During his travels he sometimes chooses not to take the medicine prescribed for his heart because it makes him feel “diminished,” and he begins to experience his past much more vividly than his present. Juan Diego dreams of his youth in Mexico and gets lost in recollections of the shocking moments and mysterious happenings that made him who he is: of his mind-reading sister, Lupe, and his mother, Esperanza; Rivera, the man who was “probably not” his father; the loving couple who adopted him; and the colleagues, clergy, and circus performers who changed his life.

Irving’s fourteenth novel explores the hold the past has upon us and the tension—both cultural and personal—between faith and reason. The tale of one man from the Mexican basura reveals a sweeping allegory of all that is mysterious: the incomprehensible and unfathomable things we struggle to make sense of and of the s see more

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About the Author

John Irving
Photograph © Jane Sobel Klonsky

John Irving

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 in 1981 for his short story “Interior Space.” In 2000, Mr. Irving won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules. In 2013, he won a Lambda Literary Award for his novel In One Person. An international writer—his novels have been translated into more than thirty-five languages—John Irving lives in Toronto. His all-time best-selling novel, in every language, is A Prayer for Owen Meany.