The World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World Fair of 1893, is the backdrop for this wonderful story. The author’s research is evident in the writing. The book is so steeped in the time, place, and culture that the setting becomes another character. It Happened at the Fair is worth reading for the history and setting alone, but that isn’t the only reason to read. The characters are well drawn and sympathetic, and the plot is engaging.
Cullen McNamara attends the World’s Fair in hopes of selling his design for an automated sprinkler system. A farmer’s son and part time inventor, Cullen is spurred to invent the sprinkler system after his mother is killed in a tragic fire. He reluctantly goes to the fair when he discovers his father has prepaid all his expenses. Cullen’s partial hearing loss is made much worse by the loudness in Machinery Hall, where he has his exhibit. When he realizes his inability to hear may be losing him potential clients, he convinces Della Wentworth, a teacher of deaf students, to teach him to lip read. Della is hesitant at first, but they eventually start working on the lip reading while visiting fair exhibits, and they come to enjoy each other’s company. As they become close, Cullen confuses Della by putting emotional distance between them. Unbeknownst to her, Cullen has a childhood sweetheart at home in North Carolina, and he knows he needs to figure out what he wants before someone gets hurt.
The story is made more complex and interesting by the details of the fair, but also the details of the prejudice most people of this time feel towards the deaf and hearing impaired. There is an ongoing, and often heated, debate over whether deaf children should be taught sign language, or only lip reading. The debate spills over and affects Cullen and Della as well.
It Happened at the Fair is categorized as an Inspirational Romance, but if I’d been handed the book without that knowledge it wouldn’t have jumped out at me. Since some readers seem to avoid inspirational romances, I wanted to be clear that this book isn’t about proselytizing. One character says a prayer when seeing a tragic fire, but I didn’t feel like that was an unusual reaction to the situation. There are other brief mentions of God and beliefs, but nothing out of character for the time period and nothing preachy. There is sexual tension in the book but the only sex scene fades to black. I would categorize this as a “clean” romance (not a word I particularly like, but useful) suitable for teens and older.
To my knowledge, I have never before listened to narrator Amy Rubinate. At first I wasn’t sure if her style of delivery was going to suit me. I tend to be sensitive to the cadence of narrations, the rhythm with which they speak. This unfortunately makes several very popular and talented readers difficult for me to listen to. However, I realized early on that I wasn’t hearing the narrator at all. I was simply enjoying the story. Other than reading a little more slowly than I prefer, Ms. Rubinate is a complete success for me as a narrator. Her pacing is even, her character voices are consistent, and the emotional reactions she conveys match the dialogue perfectly. I’m happy to add her name to my list of go-to narrators.
Whatever you do, when you finish this book make sure you listen to the Afterword. It’s fantastic, funny, and gives an insight into the heart and mind of the author. She quickly details where her writing differs from historical accuracy, and does so in a very winsome, lively manner. It is worth every moment of the 5 or so minutes it takes....more
I could've really used this book 6 years ago when I was starting down this path from evangelicalism to Catholicism. Better late than never!
Six years aI could've really used this book 6 years ago when I was starting down this path from evangelicalism to Catholicism. Better late than never!
Six years ago my husband and I started this very journey from "good evangelical" to "committed Catholic" with very few resources. I stumbled along at times, slowly separating the good information on Catholic beliefs and worship from the less helpful bits. Smith's book would have been infinitely helpful for both guidance and information about the Catholic Church. Thankfully, we eventually managed to stumble upon a knowledgeable RCIA director who gave us a wealth of information without pressure or criticism. But there are many people out there needing answers who either don't have access to such a help, or aren't ready to approach anyone quite yet. This book is perfect for just such a situation.
But there are more reasons to read and share "How to Go From Good Evangelical to Committed Catholic." Within the Evangelical world there is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding about Catholics, what we believe and how we worship. Books such as this can be a great tool for ecumenism. When I first started reading about Catholicism, I was amazed at my own ignorance. Not only didn't I know what Catholics believed, I had been actively told half-truths throughout my Christian walk. I now make it a point to help my Evangelical friends understand the Catholic faith, and to stress all we have in common. Not to proselytize, but to enable us all to work together in our communities. To that end I have two copies of Smith's book, one for my own library, and one to share.
This book isn't only for the seeker, it's for the friends and families trying to understand the "why's" of the seeker's journey of faith. ...more