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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sandi on 05-13-15
If Dickens needed a NY location for a story..
Dickens would find himself right at home in these streets and alleys in turn of the century New York. Parry's description of the times, her character development and her unusual theme coupled with the narration make this a "stop what you are doing and listen!" story.
I wish that I knew where I found the recommendation for this book, because I would love to listen to some of their other suggestions. I will definitely listen to this book again.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
By Andrea on 08-02-15
Riveting Tale of Compassion and Tolerance
I found this book to be beautifully written and narrated, and touchingly resonant in today's world, though it took place decades ago. Ostensibly, it's the story of two sisters who become separated - the one's journey to find the other, and we readers are treated to quite a story along the way, with a diverse cast of characters whom Denice Stradling brings convincingly to life.
It's a story of outcasts finding love and resolution within their strange and difficult lives. I used the word riveting in my headline, but this story unfolds slowly and is not to be rushed. In spite of the backdrop of turn of the century Coney Island and the tough back alleys of Manhattan, there's an almost Dickensean feel to the novel, again enhanced by top notch narration.
My only complaint was a little confusion due to the author's predilection of going back and forth in time and setting. Those transitions were sometimes hard to follow and I was sure I missed something, often rewinding to find I hadn't. Rest easy, in the epilogue all is revealed.
This is a great story by a very talented writer.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful