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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2015 Leslie Parry (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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    7
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    5
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Story

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Sandi
  • ashland, OR, United States
  • 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

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Alex
  • Denver, CO
  • 04-27-16

The voices.

The story was great, but I found the readers voices of the character's very annoying, especially the younger ones. Which too away from the story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Don't Miss This One!

What made the experience of listening to Church of Marvels the most enjoyable?

The storyline is intriguing, complex and surprising. I love this book.

What did you like best about this story?

Rich characters and the surprising intertwining of their lives. That's all I can say without giving too much away.

What about Denice Stradling’s performance did you like?

Good character development.

If you could rename Church of Marvels, what would you call it?

Surprises Abound.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Good and not-so-good

A mixed review. I liked the historical setting and the intricacy of the separate stories connecting through the course of the book, but the momentum of the narrative got bogged down by too much discriptive prose, and the undeveloped characters weakened the plot. But the ending, tying up all the threads of the story, was a big plus. Narration was good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Church of Marvels

Starts off strong, good characters, great settings, however, towards the middle, it starts to drag, and for me, doesn't seem to get back on track.Somewhat interesting, however it's not a book I'll read again.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Boring narrator!

I had a hard time getting into this book. The story is very interesting, but the narrator may as well be reading a VCR repair manual. She is dull and dry and not at all connected with this wonderful story.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

I really wanted to love this

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Shorter descriptions and smaller paragraphs, the story dragged on too long.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Let down.

Would you be willing to try another one of Denice Stradling’s performances?

Not if I can avoid it.

Do you think Church of Marvels needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No, the mystery ended.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

MARVELOUS!

Simply one of the most enjoyable reads in in awhile. It draws you into a world of another time, into characters full of mystery, and molded by the strength and vastness of love.
I want mor from Leslie Perry

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Enjoyable

I felt it took a bit for me to get into it, but really enjoyed the story once I did.