Author: Leslie Perry
Church of Marvels, a debut novel, has many glistening parts that entertain and stun: the plot follows four outliers in 1895 New York City, and strums a Dickensian tone throughout the novel. Sylvan Threadgille is a night soiler; he cleans the lavatories and privies of tenement houses. One night Sylvan finds a newborn baby in the soils and dregs of the privies and takes her home, asking a neighbor, Mrs. Izzie, to take care of the infant until he can find the mother.
Odile and Belle Church, young beautiful twin daughters of Friendship Church, are performers at the Church of Marvels, a sideshow owned by Friendship. The Coney Island side show is extravagant, real and full of the dangers of the strange and unique in humanity. Suddenly, the Church of Marvels burns down, Friendship is burned in the fire, and Belle runs away. Odile is left by herself, with no family, no home and she has to find her sister, for Belle is all that she has left.
Belle runs with two horrible secrets: she is pregnant and she has caused all the trouble in her family. Vanishing, Belle leads Odile through the bowels of Hell to find her.
Alphie’s husband is an opium addict and weakling, bullied by his controlling mother Francesca. One day, Alphie finds herself dragged away to Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum – her husband’s mother is taking her revenge upon Alphie. Alphie carries another dark secret. She is both man and woman.
As these four characters spill into the swill of dark 1800’s New York City, they fall into hard and evil hands. With a plot convoluted and well crafted, we delve into the wonders and horrors of their lives along with Leslie Parry. The four characters are entwined of course, and come together at the end in a satisfying ending.
Enticing, and unique, this novel events the tone of Edgar Allen Poe and the strangeness of carny life in the worst parts of New York City at the turn of the century. Writing – excellent. Plot – well done. Intelligently written, I still did not feel emotionally engaged with any of the characters or their lives, and almost felt that the writing technique superseded the novel. I would have liked more passion, less workshop time in this thrilling and fascinating tale of tears and trouble.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A”
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own
Church of Marvels: A Novel is available for purchase on Amazon.com and at bookstores nationwide