Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"Church of Marvels" by Leslie Parry



For the last 10 minutes I have been writing and re-writing the opening sentence of this review. My mind is racing with all the things I want to say about this book that I don't even know where to start. I guess I should start by telling you that Church of Marvels is Leslie Parry's debut novel. That being said, her plot line is phenomenal! To have a mind like hers and be able to plot and plan a book like this...just WOW!!! 

This story takes place in 1895 New York City. I love books that take place a) in NYC and b) anytime turn-of-the-century through the 1920s. Those facts alone had me interested. Then you throw in characters with interesting and out of the ordinary professions/lives and I immediately fall in love.

Sylvan Threadgill is a night soiler in charge of cleaning out the privies behind tenement houses. He rescues a baby discarded among the muck. Odile Church and her twin sister, Belle, were raised by their mother in The Church of Marvels- a sideshow on Coney Island. The church burns to the ground and their mother dies in the fire. Belle takes off to Manhatten leaving Odile alone, scared and desperate to find her sister. A young woman named Alphie awakes to find she has been locked away in an insane asylum across the river with very little memory of how she got there. She meets another young woman, a patient also on the ward, who can't speak, but who holds a special talent that may be able to help break them both out.

Throughout the book, these characters become entwined. Slowly but surely I began to realize how each where connected to one another. Small (minute) details and questions I had that stuck out while reading  were beautifully and creatively brought to a conclusion I never even imagined. Through love and loss, friendships and loneliness, hope and despair, they all come together in a spectacular way. Even when I thought the author had wrapped up every little morsel of  explanation, another little secret/conclusion is spilled that blew me away! The less you know about the story line, the better this book will be! Trust me. 

The writing style of Parry and the words she uses to describe the sights, smells, and the characters' thoughts and feelings in this book are so engulfing.It's easy to imagine you are right there in late 19th century NYC. She has a magical way with words, even when she describes the horrid, deplorable, and striking conditions of places mentioned in this book. 

I highly recommend this book. This is easily one of my favorite books and I can't wait to read more from Leslie Parry. When you start to read, and near the end, and think you have figured it out, be warned- it doesn't end the way you think it will end. Once the last page is turned this story will haunt your thoughts for the rest of the day. 

Happy Reading!

A special shout-out to my BBF (best book friend) Tessy for recommending this book to me! Love you!

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