Coupon
Church of Marvels
by Leslie Parry


Overview -

A ravishing first novel set in vibrant, tumultuous turn-of-the-century New York City, where the lives of four outsiders become entwined, bringing irrevocable change to them all

New york, 1895. Sylvan Threadgill, a night-soiler cleaning out the privies behind the tenement houses, finds an abandoned newborn baby in the muck.  Read more...


 
Hardcover
  • $26.99

Add to Cart + Add to Wishlist

In Stock.

FREE Shipping for Club Members
 
> Check In-Store Availability

In-Store pricing may vary

 
 
New & Used Marketplace 26 copies from $15.01
 
Download

This item is available only to U.S. billing addresses.
 
 
 
 

More About Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
 
 
 
Overview

A ravishing first novel set in vibrant, tumultuous turn-of-the-century New York City, where the lives of four outsiders become entwined, bringing irrevocable change to them all

New york, 1895. Sylvan Threadgill, a night-soiler cleaning out the privies behind the tenement houses, finds an abandoned newborn baby in the muck. An orphan himself, Sylvan rescues the child, determined to find where she belongs.

Odile Church and her beautiful sister, Belle, were raised amid the applause and magical pageantry of the Church of Marvels, their mother's spectacular Coney Island sideshow. But the Church has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in its ashes. Now Belle, the family's star, has vanished into the bowels of Manhattan, leaving Odile alone and desperate to find her.

A young woman named Alphie awakens to find herself trapped across the river in Blackwell's Lunatic Asylum sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband's vile, overbearing mother. On the ward she meets another young woman of ethereal beauty who does not speak, a girl with an extraordinary talent that might save them both.

As these strangers' lives become increasingly connected, their stories and secrets unfold. Moving from the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular human circus to a brutal, terrifying asylum, Church of Marvels takes readers back to turn-of-the-century New York a city of hardship and dreams, love and loneliness, hope and danger. In magnetic, luminous prose, Leslie Parry offers a richly atmospheric vision of the past in a narrative of astonishing beauty, full of wondrous enchantments, a marvelous debut that will leave readers breathless."

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062367556
  • ISBN-10: 0062367552
  • Publisher: Ecco Press
  • Publish Date: May 2015
  • Page Count: 320


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Thrillers - Historical
Books > Fiction > Historical - General
Books > Fiction > Literary

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-03-30
  • Reviewer: Staff

Like the late-19th-century circus attraction of its title, Parry’s impressive debut is startling, full of wonders, and built around the bizarre; furthermore, it has compassion for human difference at its heart. The teenage Church sisters, sword-swallower Belle and her sickly twin, Odile, are left alone when their mother dies in a fire that destroys her business, Coney Island’s Church of Marvels. After the tragedy, Belle disappears with no explanation other than an enigmatic letter. Meanwhile, cesspit cleaner Sylvan Threadgill saves a baby he finds half-buried in the soil of a privy, and a young woman known only as Alphie awakens as she is being committed to a brutal insane asylum. Odile seeks Belle, Sylvan hunts for the mother of the child, and Alphie fights fiercely for her freedom; along the way, their disparate stories begin to converge. Alphie and Belle meet, for example, while a mysterious Mrs. Bloodworth figures in all of their journeys. As they encounter one another, the secrets each one hides are revealed. Parry vividly brings her characters to life and captures the underbelly of 1895 New York—a place of baby sellers, opium dens, and brothels where what is painful and what is profitable merge. Her novel satisfies as a complex historical fiction, a compelling mystery, and an insightful exploration of such themes as otherness and outsider identity. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (May)

 
BookPage Reviews

Twinned fates

What do two twin sisters who star in a Coney Island sideshow, a woman whose mother-in-law may have had her committed to an insane asylum, and a sanitation worker who finds an orphaned baby girl while completing his rounds one night have in common? The question sounds like the set up to a rather ghoulish joke, and yet untangling this mystery forms the basis of Leslie Parry’s dazzling debut, Church of Marvels.

Set in 1895, Church of Marvels takes readers deep into the shadowy underworld of turn-of-the-century New York City and its fringes. It is a story of hardscrabble lives intersecting in the most shocking ways—a story that is sometimes quite ugly but often made beautiful by its colorful cast of characters. This is not a novel with a single heart to it, but rather a chorus of four, and they are engaged in a scavenger hunt where their very salvation is at stake. To say any more would do a disservice to the devilish twists and legitimately shocking surprises that Parry has plotted for her readers. This is a book best entered in the dark, so when its revelations unfold, they are all the more dazzling.

Despite its historical setting, Parry’s world-building and character crafting are so strong that Church of Marvels feels fresh and timely, a thoughtful and satisfying modern work dressed up with all the bells and whistles of an old-fashioned Victorian romp. At times it reads like a Sarah Waters novel—with the compassion and cunning that implies—set in America. Utterly electrifying, this is the kind of novel readers will race through, only to turn the final page feeling ever so slightly heartbroken that the story has reached its end. Let’s hope that Parry has plenty more tricks up her sleeve.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Parry about Church of Marvels.

 
BAM Customer Reviews