Review of The Sign for Home by Blair Fell

The Sign for Home
Blair Fell
April 5, 2022
Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Blurb: When Arlo Dilly learns the girl he thought was lost forever might still be out there, he takes it as a sign and embarks on a life-changing journey to find his great love—and his freedom.

Arlo Dilly is young, handsome and eager to meet the right girl. He also happens to be DeafBlind, a Jehovah’s Witness, and under the strict guardianship of his controlling uncle. His chances of finding someone to love seem slim to none.

And yet, it happened once before: many years ago, at a boarding school for the Deaf, Arlo met the love of his life—a mysterious girl with onyx eyes and beautifully expressive hands which told him the most amazing stories. But tragedy struck, and their love was lost forever.

Or so Arlo thought.

After years trying to heal his broken heart, Arlo is assigned a college writing assignment which unlocks buried memories of his past. Soon he wonders if the hearing people he was supposed to trust have been lying to him all along, and if his lost love might be found again.

No longer willing to accept what others tell him, Arlo convinces a small band of misfit friends to set off on a journey to learn the truth. After all, who better to bring on this quest than his gay interpreter and wildly inappropriate Belgian best friend? Despite the many forces working against him, Arlo will stop at nothing to find the girl who got away and experience all of life’s joyful possibilities.

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I started doing something in 2020 that I hadn’t done before—much, if at all—as a book blogger, I began DNFing books (DNF = Did not finish). If I reached a certain point, usually I tried for 25-30% of the book, and if I still wasn’t feeling it then kaput. But, honestly, my mind had been made up far before that point, usually by the first 10 pages. And there was something about Blair Fell’s The Sign for Home‘s first few pages that immediately brought on my “meh” face. Except I kept reading and then I was so immersed in this wonderful, wrenching, funny, heartbreaking novel that I couldn’t put it down and then just didn’t.

Firstly, I want to talk about that blurb that appears above. In my mind, it’s like one great big spoiler because for most of the novel the reader doesn’t know that that wonderful girl, the love of Arlo’s life still exists. Bad blurb! Because I didn’t read the blurb right before starting the book, what I read, led me to believe that the girl no longer existed.

The Sign for Home for the most part is about Arlo who is DeafBlind and really wants to attend a writing course and selects who he thinks is the best professor, and Cyril, an interpreter who happens to be gay, who mostly just wants to get out of Poughkeepsie. Arlo discovers that Cyril interprets everything that is being said around him, about him, to him, while his other interpreter, Molly, censored. This makes Arlo want to keep Cyril around just because it allows him to learn and know everything that his Jehovah’s Witness uncle, Brother Birch, wants to keep from him. Add into the mix, Hanne, Cyril’s best friend who happens to be a wacky blunt Belgian artist/barista/nursing student and we have a world where unusual and funny and bittersweet events can occur.

I was so entertained by The Sign for Home that I really didn’t want to put it down. I learned a lot about what it must be like to be DeafBlind and trying to navigate a speaking-seeing world. How English isn’t their first language and that all of the grammar and tenses just don’t come easily. And, that the other senses, touch and especially smell feature prominently. And what it must be like to have your interpreter leave you in a room all by yourself.

The last quarter of the novel may have felt like a movie/TV heist but it was both fun and tense and left the reader with a magical, amazing feeling. Yes, I could easily see this becoming a movie.

A definite feel-good book about second chances and rediscovering life.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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