A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
“It Happened At The Fair” by Deeanne Gist
August 16, 2014 by
Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’sFair with his most recent invention. But the noise in theFair‘s Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.
The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?
It Happened At The Fair is a spectacular look at the underbelly of the Chicago World’s Fair. If we think anything at all about these historical expositions, it’s usually of shiny new inventions and gleaming innovations, but rarely do we think about the hard work or the dangers that accompanied this major event – or of how people’s lives were changed because of the successes or failures they found there.
This story will change all that.
In a last-ditch attempt to save his family’s farm, future, and livelihood, Cullen convinces Della to teach him to read lips. I know next-to-nothing about lipreading, but I studied sign language in college, and I think it’s a beautiful way to express oneself. I was fascinated to learn through this story about the stereotypes and indignities that people with hearing disabilities used to have. Imagine being deprived of this now-common, beautiful language because others thought you mentally imbalanced!
As always, I loved Gist’s descriptions. I feel as if I’ve been at the fair myself. I can picture the beautifully faux buildings, the fountains, the people from all over the world, and the danger that lurked beneath every dry building. I can see the crush of the crowds and the awe in the eyes of children in a city for the very first time.
Gist is also a master at building suspense. She does so in a myriad of ways in this book – by escalating the fear of a great fire on the grounds, by increasing the danger to Cullen’s family farm, with flying sparks between Cullen and Della. It Happened at the Fair is one book you won’t be able to put down until you’ve turned the very last page, because until then, you’ll devour each one like the very fires that Cullen fears.
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Deeanne Gist—known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee—has rocketed up bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very fun, very original historicals. She has received numerous RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, and rave reviews. Deeanne has a background in education and journalism and a degree from Texas A&M. She has written for People, Parents, and Parenting. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and has four grown children. She has a very active online community on her website at IWantHerBook.com and at Facebook.com/DeesFriends.
I received a free copy of It Happened At The Fair from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.