The Phenomenal and Fearless Potters, c. 1900  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division  ; included under the fair use exemption

The Phenomenal and Fearless Potters, c. 1900
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; included under the fair use exemption

Read Leslie Parry’s debut for its gorgeous writing. Read it 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.
— Ellis Avery, author of THE LAST NUDE

Church of Marvels

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.

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UK edition
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CHURCH OF MARVELS is 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 skillful triumph, undertaken with masterful scope.
— Jessie Burton, author of THE MINIATURIST
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. If CHURCH OF MARVELS existed only as a gripping set piece of historical Coney Island and Manhattan, that would be enough, but its plot is wound like a Swiss watch and its characters devastatingly real. This book is important for more reasons than I can list.
— Lyndsay Faye, author of THE GODS OF GOTHAM