Posted in books

Jumping headfirst into Christmas +Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving

We had the nicest, quietest of Thanksgiving weekends. My youngest brother-in-law came to town (as is our tradition), and he and my wonderful husband set to work shopping, preparing, and cooking the week away. Wonderful turkey, great side dishes (especially the cranberry chutney, which has become my contribution), and delish desserts graced our Thanksgiving table, thanks to ‘the boys.’

Friday brought leftovers. And then Saturday rolled around, and ‘the boys’ took on the task of creating a Lebanese feast. Their father’s family hails from that part of the world (they left in the early 20th century for a new life in the good old USA), and it’s a tradition. We had grape leaves, tabbouleh, lamb,babaganoush, pita bread–and many other wonderful sides. All handmade, except the bread. Wonderful.

An12312175_10207952246465405_902407484_nd then, because time waits for no one, we jumped right into Christmas.

I still have boxes all over, but the house is getting decorated, slowly but surely. I let the girls decorate the tree, and then I balanced it out a bit (not too much, but they seem to forget other sides, and feel the need to hang the ugliest ornaments front and center).

So, Christmas is in full swing at our house. Which is AWESOME!! It’s time for Christmas!!!! I am not, nor will I ever be, ready for Christmas on November 1st, but the day after Thanksgiving–bring it on!!!

This was also the year, earlier this week, that we had a quick little talk with Libby about Santa. She has insisted for the last couple of years that Santa is real, even when I saw the doubt in her eyes. We asked her outright. She hemmed and hawed, but eventually said, “Stop trying to take away my childhood!” with a smile. My answer was, Santa is real, because he is the embodiment of Christmas and its spirit, the meaning of giving just to give. It’s now her job to help us spread Santa throughout the season. I’m going to write her the ‘Santa’ note this week, just so she has something to hang onto through life.

We also told her that we still have Katy, who will believe in Santa until she’s 30 if we let her!!! Speaking of Katy, for Christmas she told me she wants the Sing Along Elsa and lots of snakes. Libby, on the other hand, wants a ‘kneesuit’ for swimming (these can be expensive and only last a short time) and a new phone. Because of this list alone, I know she’s too old for Santa.

For Christmas, I want a nice, quiet trip with my family. I want the girls to have fun, and to soak in the sunshine for 10 days before returning to dreary Ohio for another couple of months. I want my girls to have an amazing Christmas. I want fun with friends before we leave. I want to breathe in all the holiday cheer so I can hold it close during those times when life gets tough and not so cheery.

I feel blessed this Christmas. We’re all healthy. I have parents (mom and stepdad) who are healthy and active. We have a roof over our heads and I have a husband that fix pretty much anything under that roof. That same husband will cook for us and help me get the girls to and fro. He can fix a car if need be, and makes sure my gas tank is always full. I have girls that are succeeding in their own ways in life.

I’m going to take what I have and be grateful, and pass some of that good fortune onto others. And that’s the most Christmas-y thing in the world.

Okay, onto one of my favorite author’s newest book–John Irving’s Avenue of Mysteries

“. . . good books were the best protection from evil that Pepe had actually held in his hands—you could not hold faith in Jesus in your hands, not in quite the same way you could hold good books.”

The Premise

With the exception of the very beginning, Juan Diego, the star of this book, is looking back on his extraordinary life through dreams and memories. He’s a famous novelist and professor at the University of Iowa, on the trip of a lifetime to the Philippines. When his medication gets off cycle thanks to a delay in the flights, Juan Diego starts to remember his life, and all that went on in his journey from a brilliant ‘dump kid’ (kids raised near or in the dump) in Oaxaca, Mexico to a life of study in Iowa.

Juan Diego’s memories are of his little sister, Lupe, a young girl with the gift of sight and a severe speech impediment (no one but him can understand her), his mother, Esperanza, and other adults (priests and studying to be-priests, doctors, circus people, and transvestites) that ensured Juan Diego would have more of life that the dump.

Right from the beginning of his trip, Juan Diego meets two women, mother and daughter, who take charge of his life and take turns in his bed. He’s pretty sure these women are not what they seem to be, but they take him by the hand and give him a chance to visit the past and enjoy the present.

This is the story of what happens when the beginning and the near-end of your life collide; the beauty and the pain of the past, the wonder and brilliance of a present that seemed impossible.

My Thoughts

Let me start by telling you all how much I love John Irving. The Cider House Rules is right up there amongst my all time favorite books. He hits on timeless questions and themes in his books without getting preachy or really even taking a side–he just presents the questions and lets the reader decide.

This book rounds up many of his favorite themes and similar characters (although all very different in personality). I started highlighting the phrases and similar occurrences from The Cider House Rules, which I haven’t really done with others (although they always re-occur, I’ve found), and it’s amazing. I’ve read The Cider House Rules at least six times, and my copy is well worn and loved, so I know it well.

One major theme that comes up in many books is that of orphans or pseudo-orphans. Irving seems to understand their need to be ‘of use,’ a phrase the appears and reappears often. Also, Irving talks about the pros and cons of legal abortion (a theme that plays on the idea of orphans, in the end), and religion.

Beyond all that, I liked Avenue of Mysteries very much, just not as much as The Cider House Rules. Although not much has surpassed my love of that one.

I give Avenue of Mysteries 4.5 stars. Really good, absorbing, and thought-provoking. Thank you John Irving. I love you.







I love to read; writing is my outlet. My blog is my way to combine the two, with a some life stories thrown in for good measure.

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