It Happened at the Fair

Deeanne Gist
Howard Books (2013)
ISBN 9781451692372
Reviewed by Tamra LeValley for Reader Views (12/13)

In “It Happened at the Fair” by Deeanne Gist, Cullen’s greatest fear became his greatest triumph. A partially deaf man, who lost his mother due to a fire, invented the first automatic sprinkler system. With the world’s largest fair happening in Chicago in 1893, Cullen’s father put him on a train and rented him a space in the Machinery Hall in order to sell his invention. Once he arrives and the fair finally opens his hearing problems are exasperated by the high noise level in the exhibition hall so he hires a woman to teach him to read lips. He must make a sale to save his farm and he must win the heart of Della.

The author, Deeanne Gist, did a fabulous job on the historical contents in this book.  I absolutely loved that there were real pictures from the fair at the beginning of each chapter.  It blew my mind when I got to the picture of the Ferris Wheel because I have had that exact picture for over eighteen years now.  I found it at a garage sell for free.  I suggest every reader skip to the “Author's Notes” on page 395 before starting this book.  It gives a clearer view on the historical documentation and which parts the author enhanced prior to reading about them.  I found this very helpful with context.

The plot was fantastic and fun.  The love story was so believable and exactly what you would expect during that era.  Between the attire and they way they lived back then, the writer actually has the ability to make the reader “see” it.  It was also insightful on how the deaf were treated.  The lip reading courses and the classrooms for deaf children were very hard to read about because of how the children had to live without their parents for six years.  

This historical romance was one of the best in its genre that I have read in a long time.  It had its ebbs and flows that kept my interest until the very last page.  The characters were written with depth; the ending, although typical of all love stories, still hit my soft spot because it was done with elegance.  “It Happened at the Fair” by Deeanne Gist is a must read for all historical readers who also enjoy an occasional love story.

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