Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with his most recent invention. Cullen is progressively losing his hearing, and the noise in the fair’s Machinery Hall makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires the beautiful Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading. It takes some persuading to get Della to agree to participate in the first place, but then Cullen finds himself having trouble keeping his mind on his lessons when his lessons require him to watch Della’s lips. Cullen soon finds himself caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor.
Della Wentworth is a young teacher at the Pennsylvania Home for Deaf Children. The whole school has been transported to the Fair for exhibiting the children learning to lip read. Della having had the fear of God put into her by her father with tales of the deceptions men can employ in order to ruin a young, innocent woman, is hesitant when Cullen approaches her for private lessons. But she does relent and agree to meet with him during the evenings, partly for the lessons, but also for the chance to tour the fair. The aspect of the novel that dealt with the prevailing ideas about how to help the deaf to function in society was especially interesting. The school at which Della taught adhered to the principle that sign language should never be employed as it would mark out people as deaf and therefore different. To begin with, Della is an adherent of the principle, until something occurs which enables her to empathize more with her deaf students, and to realize that the decision to deny them a method of communication - any method - purely on principle, is wrong and almost cruel.
I highly enjoyed the whole World’s Fair setting. Gist soared to new heights when describing the Fair and all the details that went with it. I felt like I was there with Cullen and Della, walking through all the exhibits. I found it very fascinating. I’m so glad she has decided to continue with this theme for at least two more books (Fair Play- released 2014 and Tiffany Girl- to be released May 2015). I look forward to adventuring through the World’s Fair some more!
Gist’s characters are well developed and very likable. Her dialogue is witty and engaging. She’s a captivating writer who knows how to keep the reader invested in the story. Deeanne has also proven time after time, that she works really hard on the research part of the writing process. This is extremely evident in the details and historical facts concerning the Chicago World’s Fair. You not only get to read a really enjoyable story, you also get to learn something about history! Which is a plus. The love story between Cullen and Della is very sweet, but complicated at times. There are a few road blocks on their romantic journey. But that only makes the end result more sweeter! =)
This novel has everything: romance, drama, comedy. The romance is clean, but real at the same time. There’s definitely sexual attraction between the two, but the author keeps it clean and decent (which is proper considering the times). It has a Christian theme to it, which Gist is known for. There were also a few moments that had me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next, and moments that made me feel the heart numbing pain that the characters felt. One particular scene that stands out to me is the one involving the terrible fire at the Cold Storage Building and its aftermath. Those scenes were so devastating and moving. Gosh I felt like I was there standing with Cullen and Della watching it play out, and at the same time standing up there on the Building with the stranded firemen! Definitely an extremely moving scene! ***I’m terribly sorry for the plot spoiler, but I had to mention this! I didn’t give anything away though! ;) ***
This novel just reinforces my conclusion that there’s no such thing as a bad Deeanne Gist novel. She has become one of my all time favorite authors and I look forward to reading more of her books!
*****Keep up with Deeanne Gist on her website: www.IWantHerBook.com ******
Liz Austin. Bibliophile. Writer. Book hoarder. I would rather be reading....