About the book: 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.
Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the Fair'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?
My thoughts: I have read and thoroughly enjoyed several of Deeanne Gist's books and was excited at the prospect of being able to again read, review, and rave. She has not disappointed! Ms. Gist thoroughly researches her books and you learn a bit about history while you're being taken on a delightful spin into the realm of realistic fiction.
Our male hero or lead in the story is straight off the farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. He is thrust into the industrial and exciting realm of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Though raised on the farm and trained to farm, he has been off to school (college), been educated, and been encouraged to develop his creative and very real talent for engineering and inventing. His parents recognize his talent just as they recognize his severe allergies to all things farming - seeds, pollen, hay, dirt, insects - they all set his nose, eyes, skin rebelling against their affinity to him.
At the fair where he is positioned to hawk his invention of automatic sprinkling systems to prevent fires, his loss of hearing becomes a real hardship and handicaps him threatening to make his position at the fair a total failure. But then he learns of our female lead character, Della, who is a teacher of the deaf. She teaches them to lip-read. He seeks her out and then the real story begins.
They go round-robin more than Mr. Ferris' Ferris Wheel (newly invented and exhibited at the fair) did. Their developing relationship is sweet and cautious and within the social mores of the time.
Some parts of the book were like a bit of a travelog in describing the fair, the buildings, the landscaping to suit a novel. Though they were well written, enjoyable and informative, I think a bit less would have been better. Then, too, in some ways the character Della was a bit over-the-top in her reactions even for the time and place and social restraints. I'm not saying anything should have been actually changed. These are just observations. I did very much enjoy reading It Happened At The Fair and will be anxiously awaiting another of Deeanne Gist's delightful reads.
As I read the story it became personally interesting to me. I and most of my family have difficulty hearing. We can trace the consistent trait back to my father and his sibilings. All of my children have inherited it, too. So we understand Cullen's plight and frustration. Thankfully today there are quality hearing aids (which we utilize fully) that are wonderful blessings to us. Ms. Gist's funny looking words in the story's conversations were a bit perplexing at first and I wondered if they were intended to portray local dialect. Then I realized it was to illustrate how Cullen was hearing people speak and it was pretty accurate. Inability to clearly distinguish sounds in a hearing world is difficult at best.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~GIVEAWAY: The good folks at Litfuse Publicity Group are generously providing a copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win by using the entry form below. Begins May 8 & ENDS May 23 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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About the author: 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.
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of It Happened At The Fair in exchange for my honest review from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the publisher and author. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was under no obligation to render a positive review.