Coney Island

New book highlights enchantment of old New York

Brooklyn BookBeat

April 21, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Leslie Parry’s book “Church of Marvels” is partially set in Coney Island. Photo by Adam Farabee

The enchantment of New York at the turn of the century and the weird, wonderful world of side shows and human circuses are vividly brought to life in Leslie Parry’s “Church of Marvels”

(Ecco; On-sale: May 5). This highly anticipated debut is already named an Indies Introduce Pick, a Barnes & Noble Discover Pick and an Indie Next Pick for May. A twisting narrative full of thrills and a colorful exploration of four lives at the fringes of society, “this quite literally marvelous novel takes you on a hallucinatory ride through old New York, until the four threads of its protagonists’ lives tangle and tighten like a noose,” says Emma Donoghue, New York Times bestselling author of “Room.”

When Sylvan Threadgill discovers an abandoned newborn while cleaning out privies behind tenement houses, the young night soiler rescues the girl, determined to find where she belongs. Meanwhile, struggling performer Odile Church has been left alone after a fire ravages her family’s sideshow. Her mother was lost to the ashes, and her twin sister Belle, a stunning contortionist and star of the show, fled after the disaster. Desperate and guilt-ridden, Odile decides to search for her sister using the only clue she has — a letter sent from Manhattan, imploring Odile to stay in Coney Island.

Across the river, the recently-wed Alphie finds herself trapped in a lunatic asylum, certain her cruel, conniving mother-in-law has orchestrated her imprisonment. When she befriends a fierce, silent young woman committed alongside her, she discovers the girl’s extraordinary talent, which may be the key to their escape. As Sylvan, Odile and Alphie unravel the mysteries around them, their lives become irrevocably entwined, and their long-hidden stories and secrets begin to unfold.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Steeped in the ambiance of old New York, “Church of Marvels” a vibrant blend of the literary and the historical.

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Leslie Parry is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her stories have appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Missouri Review, The Cincinnati Review and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, among other publications. She was recently a resident at Yaddo and The Kerouac House. Her writing has also received a National Magazine Award nomination and an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2013. She lives in Chicago.


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