Church of Marvels – by Leslie Parry – independent book review – Fiction

Well written novel with truly IMAGINATIVE storylines with mounting suspense. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

marvelsThis book begins as a bit of a puzzle that requires close attention and some patience on your part. Parry introduces us to multiple storylines, one-by-one, which seem unconnected. There is a pugilist in New York City who moonlights emptying privies. Twin sisters who perform with their mother at a freak show on Coney Island. There’s a man from a big Italian family hiding a secret life and a woman who can’t remember why she finds herself in an asylum.

You can expect to find yourself hanging at the end of each chapter, then needing to remember what happened to one character as you then move onto the next chapter about another. Until slowly the storylines begin to come together. I personally found this annoying at first, but less so as the novel progresses. I don’t want to ruin any surprises so I will just say that you will learn a lot about some of the darker aspects to New York in the 1880s — like medical care, or the way unwanted pregnancies could be handled, or what could happen to children living on the street. On the plus side, there are intense human connections, some of which last a lifetime.

The language is rich and evocative. And you definitely won’t be able to figure out the end until you get there. A very engaging read.

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