Book Details

When Rea Traylor flees with her children to see her estranged parents in 1980's Oklahoma, surprises follow. It is up to Rea's young daughter, Sapphie, to solve the mystery of her mother's secret life.

Lip Reader features a colorful cast of characters—an unkempt uncle living in a school bus; a grandfather who preaches in a rundown church; a grandmother born deaf; an aunt fluent in sign language but lacking in social graces; and Sapphie, who finds courage and hope despite mother Rea’s unthinkable act of betrayal.

* Winner of the 2008 Top Prize in Fiction at the Heart of America Christian Writers Awards *


Book Excerpt

From Lip Reader:

When Mom turned into the driveway just past the shed, she put the dims back on.

In front of us was what used to be Little Paw's diner. It had a screened-in porch that was dark because there weren't any outside lights on. In the distance was the glow of a TV screen from the front of the home. The house was all wood, except for the shingles on top, and the boards were gray just like the tool shed with the falling roof.

"We're here, Roni. You awake?" Mom stopped the motor and flashed another serious stare my way. "Wait a minute before you get your sister out."

Mom slammed the car door shut, and a golden light flicked on from inside the old diner house.

"Are you ready to meet Grandma and Grandpa Bebop?" I whispered into the back seat. The golden light shined into Roni's wide eyes, and she nodded.

Suddenly, the door on the screened-in porch opened and closed with a thud.

“Who’s out there?” I heard an old man’s scratchy voice, but couldn’t see his face. He was just a tall, skinny shadow standing on the dark porch.

“You gonna’ answer me?” he said.

Mom stood outside our car, almost frozen in place. “Rondalea Jean. Your eldest daughter?”

Her voice was weird. She made her name sound like it had a million E’s in it. RondalEEEE JEEEn. And she sounded nervous.

The tall, skinny man reached to pull a light cord dangling over his head, and the porch became the same golden color as inside the house. He wore striped denim overalls with a handkerchief hanging out of his chest pocket. The cap on his head read “Jimmy’s Garage.” His wide forehead and pointy chin made his face look like an upside-down triangle. His wiry eyebrows framed squinty eyes, and I couldn’t tell if he was mad or having trouble seeing Mom outside.

“RondalEEEE JEEEn?” He repeated it with the same million E’s. His scratchy voice was kind of scary.

Mom cleared her throat.

“Father, it’s your daughter," she said in her weird, nervous voice. "I’ve brought Sapphire and Roni. You know, my girls?”

An old woman opened the door from inside the house. She stood next to the tall man on the porch. She was about two feet taller shorter than him.

“Ronna Jean?” The woman stuttered on the R. Her voice wasn’t as loud as Grandpa Bebop’s, and she didn't add all the extra E’s. She sounded a little like the ladies at the nail parlors where Mom got her manicures; the ladies who had trouble saying their "Rs" because they were from Vietnam.

Everything about the woman was round. Her cheeks were round, her stomach was round, and her chestnut brown hair was twisted into a round cinnamon roll on top of her round head.

Mom raised her right hand up. She made a fist and shook it back and forth and made a gesture with her thumb, pointer finger and pinky. Then she stuck her thumb to her chin and fanned out her fingers.

The round woman smiled.

Mom motioned for me and Roni to get out of the car. Once we were outside, Mom walked over and put her arm around me and grabbed hold of Roni’s hand.

“Sapphie,” Mom said, stroking my shoulder. "Your Grandma Bebop is hearing-impaired. Do you know what that means?”

Mom moved her hands back and forth as she spoke to me. Grandpa Bebop watched Mom’s hands as if they were sharing a top-secret message.

“Her ears don’t work right,” I answered.

Mom flashed me a stare that meant to be quiet.

“Nothin’ wrong with being deaf.” Grandpa Bebop opened the porch door and waved his arm at us.


About the Author

Shanna Groves

Shanna Groves was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss at the age of 27. She has written about her journey in Hearing Loss, The Kansas City Star, and A Cup of Comfort for Nurses. Lip Reader is her first novel. Read more about Shanna at

"Shanna Groves has skillfully crafted a fascinating family who reside in Little Paw, Oklahoma, plagued with an inherited deafness. Sapphie Traylor comes of age as she discovers family secrets long hidden in the outback of Oklahoma. A very engaging read."

-Sally Jadlow, Author of The Late Sooner

“Here's your chance to read this brand new novel. You'll find the first chapter grabs you, and before you know it, you'll have read the entire novel in one sitting. At least, that's what happened to me."

-Neil Bauman, Ph.D., Center for Hearing Loss Help