What the Deaf-Mute Heard by Dan Gearino

What the Deaf-Mute Heard by Dan Gearino (1996) French title: J’ai tout entendu. Translated by Jean-Luc Defromont.

Another Kube pick for me: What the Deaf-Mute Heard by Dan Gearino. I’d never heard of it but I understand it was made into a successful Hallmark movie in 1997. I’m glad my book cover doesn’t display the film poster since I’d rather have original illustrations.

Back to the book.

Ten-years old Sammy Ayers is left behind at the Greyhound station in Barrington, Georgia. His mother is gone, he’s all alone and the station manager, Jenkins lets him sleep on a cot in a small room at the station. When it is clear that no one is going to claim this boy, Jenkins keeps him and in exchange for room and board, Sammy cleans the place. Between Lucille, the owner of the station’s diner and Jenkins, Sammy grows up in Barrington and becomes a local figure. Upon his arrival, out of self-protection, Sammy pretended that he couldn’t hear or speak. This is how he learns the whole town’s secrets.

As the narrator of the story, he relates his life and the event that took place twenty years ago, in 1966. He’s not 55-60 years old.

The town’s royalty are the Tynans. Alford Tynan was a legendary lawyer. His son Tolliver is a weasel who had an epiphany and became a preacher. In passing, Gearino makes cutting remarks on Southern preachers, their lack of mandatory education and sometimes lack of morals. Tolliver is all that. He’s respected because he has enough glibness to lead a lot of people to baptism. He hides his conniving crooked dealings and his greed under a Christian mask.

The town’s trash are the Thackers. Archibald is the patriarch of his extended family. He’s ambitious but knows how to play the race game in the South. He goes in to refuse collection and hides his business savvy under the cover of the black dummy. Play the stupid black man, use a white stooge as the front of your business and the whites will leave you alone.

Sammy hears everything and puts things together too. He has a grudge against Tolliver who bullied him in class. He knows who he is under his mask of respectability. He tells us about his revenge, his search for his mother and Jenkins’s history.

It was an enjoyable story full of the guilty pleasure you feel when a character gets the better on people who tolerate him and look down on him. I had a very nice time in Sammy’s company and the novel is built as a well-oiled machinery with good storytelling.

According to the comments I read on Goodreads, the movie stripped the book of all its edges to make it a very moral and wholesome story. I can’t tell you since I haven’t watched it but with the Hallmark tag, I suppose it’s true. Well, I prefer stories with complex characters.

  1. May 13, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    I had not heard of that book, no pun intended, sounds good!


    • May 15, 2021 at 7:32 am

      I think you’d like it.


  2. May 13, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    I know people with disabilities take huge issue with characters that pretend to have a disability because it suggests that folks who are disabled are just tricking other people and gaming the system.


    • May 15, 2021 at 7:34 am

      I didn’t think of it that way, to be honest, but I see your point.

      For Sammy, it wasn’t a trick. He was struck when Jenkins found him, got scared, remained silent and thought it would be more prudent to stay that way.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. May 14, 2021 at 12:38 am

    I can just imagine how Hallmark would have treated a book like this… Rainbows through rose-tinted glasses no doubt.


    • May 15, 2021 at 6:50 am

      To be honest, I knew the expression “Hallmark movie” but I thought it was just an expression coined by some film critic who attached the greeting cards image to movies.
      With this book, I discovered that there are actual, literal Hallmark movies! 🙂

      I’m sure that Sammy is less cunning in the film than he is in the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Vishy
    May 14, 2021 at 10:40 pm

    Wonderful review, Emma! This looks like a wonderful book! Love Sammy 😊 Will add this to my reading list. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


    • May 15, 2021 at 6:42 am

      I think you’ll like it. It’s your kind of book! 🙂


  5. buriedinprint
    May 21, 2021 at 9:44 pm

    Not only are there actual Hallmark films but now they have their own streaming platform. As someone else commented above, I cannot imagine what they would have done with/to this story. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the old adage, that the book is better than the movie, is doubly true (can something be doubly true? LOL this can!) in this case.


    • May 22, 2021 at 10:25 pm

      They have their own platform. Wow, I didn’t think it was such a big thing.
      The book has grey areas that were probably left behind in the movie.


  6. May 24, 2021 at 11:13 pm

    What an interesting narrative device. I’ve never heard of this novel but it’s got my attention


    • May 25, 2021 at 7:54 am

      It’s a good read, not a literary breakthrough but an good reading time.

      Liked by 1 person

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