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Church of Marvels: A Novel
     

Church of Marvels: A Novel

3.8 25
by Leslie Parry
 

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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

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.

Editorial Reviews

Jessie Burton
“[A] beautifully written tale … I loved the circus-seaside atmosphere mingled with the grit of turn of the century New York, the cast of characters possessed with such spirit to survive in terrible circumstances, and the bittersweet finale. A skillful triumph, undertaken with masterful scope.”
Ellis Avery
“Read this book for its gorgeous writing, for its Gilded Age, a marvel of richly-imagined éblouissance and finely-grained squalor. But most of all, read it for the moment when everything you thought you knew about one of its heroines turns upside down, leaving you breathless, astonished, and blessed.”
Lyndsay Faye
“Rarely have I read any novel that gripped me so viscerally from the first page, and continued to stoke my burning interest to the last… its plot is wound like a Swiss watch and its characters devastatingly real. This book is important for more reasons than I can list.”
Kansas City Star
“[U]tterly captivating… In her first novel, Parry… has proven herself more than capable of sustaining suspense, with a succession of cliffhangers compelling us to turn the page… this book demands a second read.”
21 New Authors You Need To Know Refinery29
“This is not your everyday New York City novel. Set in 1895 in Coney Island and the Lower East Side, the novel follows separate lives and sets each on a weird and magical journey and has them all intertwining in a delicate dance as the novel progresses.”
Booklist
Emphasizing the plight of women, orphans, and society’s nonconforming outcasts, the setting is superbly showcased, with its medley of sights and smells both wretched and wondrous. Especially recommended for admirers of atmospheric nineteenth-century historicals like Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music.”
18 Best Books To Either Read By Yourself Or Share Bustle
“Parry renders her band of misfit protagonists…in mesmerizing, living color[,] handles the plot’s juggling act with admirable poise, and both the adventure and the heartbreak that results will give you thrills and chills.”
BookPage.com
“A thoughtful and satisfying modern work.... At times it reads like a Sarah Waters novel…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.”
Muses & Visionaries
“Leslie Parry’s debut novel, Church of Marvels, is saturated with enthralling characters making their way through the turbulence of New York City at the end of the nineteenth century… [B]reathtaking.”
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“A vibrant blend of the literary and the historical”
O: the Oprah Magazine
“A sideshow performer, a pair of asylum escapees, and an orphaned boxer converge in Parry’s intricately braided novel of secrets and hidden identities.”
AV Club
“[Parry’s] prose is lush but never too flowery... For a book that relies so much on delving into the complexity of three primary characters, it would be easy to paint the supporting cast in black and white. But Parry’s attention to detail extends even here.”
18 of the Best New Books in May Paste
“An enchanting debut novel from Leslie Parry, Church of Marvels promises to enthrall with its eclectic cast and vibrant setting. It’s not for the faint of heart, but you’ll be rewarded with a mesmerizing tale if you dare to dive in.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
“Parry is able not only to fill Church of Marvels with impressive details of time and place, but also a unique set of marginalized experiences - lives very much of the era and yet all too familiar even today.”
New York Times Book Review
“A fascinating study in alienation, set in a time when Manhattan, at least from a distance, seemed like the promised land… a strength of Parry’s novel is her willingness to look directly into the shadows... [Parry’s] writing is often exquisite, and her imagery is breathtaking.”
New York Review of Books
“[A] well-written, gripping, Dickensian first novel... Parry has constructed a heartbreaking, compelling tale that almost incredibly ends with a modicum of hope for those in the fin de siècle lower class of the Gilded Age.”
The Missourian
“One heck of a story, actually three narratives that intersect… t’s laden with mystery and action, making it a novel to speed through, simultaneously appalled and addicted. It’s an incredible first novel by a gifted writer who doesn’t leave a single narrative thread dangling.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Church of Marvels” is rich with the uncommon and strange; it is full of odd and confounding turns. It is, simply, marvelous.
the Oprah Magazine O
“A sideshow performer, a pair of asylum escapees, and an orphaned boxer converge in Parry’s intricately braided novel of secrets and hidden identities.”
New York Journal of Books
“[A] well-written, gripping, Dickensian first novel... Parry has constructed a heartbreaking, compelling tale that almost incredibly ends with a modicum of hope for those in the fin de siècle lower class of the Gilded Age.”
Emma Donoghue
“This quite literally marvelous novel takes you on a hallucinatory ride through old New York, until the four threads of its protagonists’ lives tangle and tighten like a noose. Irresistible.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062367563
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/17/2016
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
130,544
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Leslie Parry is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her stories have appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Missouri Review, The Cincinnati Review, and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, among other publications. She was recently a resident at Yaddo and the Kerouac House. Her writing has also received a National Magazine Award nomination and an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2013. She lives in Chicago.

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Church of Marvels 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What an excellent story, vivid characters and rich prose to be savored here. This is a book to dive into.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Atmospheric, info given out in bits enticing the reader, great storytelling intertwined with images of an earlier New York City. A great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the facts of life during that time interesting. Story was disjointed and difficult to read. Not a book I particularly liked.
SUEHAV More than 1 year ago
A little tricky to figure out in parts but glad I finished as all was revealed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Def 100% recommend. To everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written with intriguing characters and a story filled with unexpected twists and turns. I didn't want it to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kind of dark and a depressing but a great story with engaging characters and not for someonne looking for a bit of romantic fluff but one who appreciates good writing and a real story----nancie
Anonymous 3 months ago
Enjoyed this book.
ReadingFury More than 1 year ago
Reading The Church of Marvels was like being dragged through a house of horrors. The first chapter was so encouraging, and I purchased this book on the strength of the sample. It was a disappointment from then on. I certainly did pay for this book, well beyond cash. It is over the top and gratuitously gory. The characters' lives and actions make little sense until the very end of the novel; the plot is a twined, knotted mess that suddenly begins to resolve when we are finally given enough details about past events and character motivations, starting around page 190. Nothing like Night Circus, as some have said. I put the book down repeatedly because my absurdity meter had blown. The marvel is that I finished the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This engaging story of off-balance characters will hook the reader almost instantly. The author paints a fascinating picture of New York while interweaving the lives of her characters. This was a book that was difficult to put down.
MeganRath More than 1 year ago
This book is full of vivid descriptions an many twists an turns you won't see coming. It's part historical fiction, part mystery, and it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absorbing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unlikeable characters and the storyline was boring.
Myrtle-Ruth More than 1 year ago
Church of Marvels was a delight. With a cast of characters who, at the start, appear to be disconnected from each other, Parry deftly weaves this tale into a lovely and enticing tapestry full of rich scenes of turn-of-the-century New York. For people interested in period pieces with all the complexities of the human condition put on full display. Aptly titled: this story is a marvel. (Pun intended.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A lovely first novel with a great deal of history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TheAvidReader_KA More than 1 year ago
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry is set in New York in 1895. Sylvan Threadgill, a night soil cleaner (cleaned out the outdoor toilets), finds a baby girl. He takes it home to care for it and find out who the baby belongs to. Isabelle “Belle” Church has fled from her home on Coney Island after the Church of Marvels burned down. Her mother, Friendship Church, and another performer died in the fire. Belle was the main attraction in the show. She is a contortionist and can swallow a number of objects. Her twin sister, Odile, wants to find her sister. She misses her and takes off to Manhattan to find her. Alphie was married to Anthony until one morning she wakes up in an insane asylum. Alphie keeps waiting for Anthony to show up and rescue her. When he does not show up, Alphie sets out to escape and gets help from Belle. Belle ended up in the asylum the same night as Alphie. At first Alphie does not remember how she ended up there and her story (along with Belle’s) is slowly revealed throughout the book. Odile starts looking for her sister and runs into Sylvan Threadgill. Sylvan helps Odile look for Belle. The Church of Marvels is a very strange book. I do not want to give anything away (spoilers), so I have tried to keep my summary brief (for me at least). We get to find out about life for the people that are different in 1895 New York (people born with deformities, work as actors, work in circus acts, girls that end up unwed and pregnant). I give Church of Marvels 2.5 out of 5 stars. I just did not enjoy this book. It lacks a nice flow. It is disjointed and confusing. Everything makes sense at the end of the book, but it is a long trip to get to that point. I received a complimentary copy of Church of Marvels from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I most def rate this book 100% and A+.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The world cares for use i care no
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very slow and boring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very understandible
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WHENTU