It Happened at the Fair

Title of Book: It Happened at the Fair

Author: Deeanne Gist

ISBN  978-1-4516-9237-2

Publisher: Howard Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Publication Date: April 2013

Reviewer: Dell Smith Klein

“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.”


Deeanne Gist, author of It Happened at the Fair,lives in Texas. She has become a popular writer, has received several RITA nominations, and two Christy Awards.  Her background is in education and journalism.  Gist is active online. Find out more about her at her website I Want, or at  It Happened at the Fair was the first book I’ve read by Gist, but it won’t be my last.


It Happened at the Fair, by Deeanne Gist hit me with two great surprises.  1) I’m allergic to cotton dust like Cullen McNamara, and 2) I’m a hard-of-hearing (HH) woman with several deaf and HH family members.  The question of oral or manual communication has been batted back and forth in my family since the 1940s.

Cullen, the main character in It Happened at the Fair faces serious consequences in the culture of 1800s that thought deafness on any level meant mental illness.  Being HH wasn’t Cullen’s only problem – he had financial problems, women problems, and had to deal with someone who wanted him to fail.

Cullen’s tutor, Della Wentworth, shines in her teaching of lip reading but I had to chuckle at Cullen’s thoughts as he watched Della’s lips and tried to keep his mind on lip-reading, not kissable lips.  Poor guy!

The author handled the deaf and HH problem very well, both for the time setting of the book and for today.  Also, I felt like I’d had a good look at the Chicago World’s Fair.  Best of all, Gist’s characters were so much fun – Cullen trying to protect Della and Della trying to protect herself from Cullen!  No question, It Happened at the Fair was fun to read.

 Yes, I recommend It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist and hope to read more of Gist’s future books.


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