SIDESHOWS OF CONEY ISLAND
TENEMENTS AND OPIUM DENS OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE
ASYLUM ON BLACKWELL’S ISLAND
WHERE TWO SISTERS, AN ENIGMATIC ORPHAN, A MORTICIAN’S BRIDE, AN ASSORTMENT OF FREAKS, AND A NEWBORN BABY COME TOGETHER IN THE
CHURCH OF MARVELS
‘… a beautifully written tale with twists and turns I didn’t see coming.
I loved the circus-seaside atmosphere mingled with the grit of turn of the century New York, and the large cast of characters possessed with such spirit to survive in terrible circumstances. There were surprises and secrets on every corner, right to the very end, and a bittersweet finale to satisfy the journey taken.
A skilful triumph, undertaken with masterful scope.’
Jessie Burton, bestselling author of The Miniaturist
‘This quite literally marvellous 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’
Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room
New York, 1895. It’s late on a warm city night when Sylvan Threadgill, a young 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 (by donna). 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.
FOR FANS OF THE NIGHT CIRCUS, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS AND CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE – A COMPULSIVELY READABLE DEBUT
LESLIE PARRY is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and 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.