How do I begin to write about Church of Marvels without revealing all the secrets and plot twists? If you are looking for a good mystery with a gripping storyline Leslie Parry will not disappoint. Set in 1895 New York City, the story begins by introducing Sylvan Threadgill, a night solider who finds an abandoned baby while cleaning out the privies. It’s here that the first mystery reveals itself: Whose baby is it and why was it abandoned?
The next chapter takes us to a carnival called The Church of Marvels at Coney Island where Odile Church, a young woman with a twisted spine and a limp, is part of a knife-throwing sideshow. Odile, after reading an enigmatic letter from her twin sister, Belle, decides to leave the island and search for her missing sister who may be in danger.
The story, once again, shifts narratives and takes the reader to an insane asylum. The character Alphie wakes up disoriented and has no recollection as to why she has been committed to Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum. Alphie, with little hope of being rescued, must plan her escape with the help of a fellow inmate.
Church of Marvels is a world of sideshow oddities and dark alleyways. This historical drama is unafraid to explore the underworld activity of nineteenth century New York. It is not a lighthearted tale, with Perry’s vivid descriptions of opium dens, human trafficking, poverty and unregulated asylums, but the story is not without a ray of hope. The characters are compelling, complex and have more secrets than you would think. Like magnets, their narratives are slowly drawn together until they converge in a satisfying conclusion that reveals the peculiar way their lives are entwined. This is a page-turner of a novel with an ending you won’t see coming.