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.
Arlo has been cut off from much of the world by his overbearing religious family, yet he flourishes whenever given an opportunity to connect. A poignant scene in which he is reading and writing about Walt Whitman allows us to see the multitudes he contains ... Too long ... Fell briefly digresses from the story to send Cyril to a conference where he learns about new approaches to signing ... Though the section is essentially didactic, the concept — and therefore the scene — is riveting and relevant to the story.
Passages that depict how Arlo experiences touch, smell and ASL are especially well done; his sections unfold in the second-person singular, so his lessons and revelations feel all the more intimate, revealing a layer of emotional intelligence and humor that would be lost if the story were told only from Cyril’s first-person perspective ... Debut novelist Blair Fell has worked as an ASL interpreter for more than 25 years, and also has been an actor, producer and director. The Sign for Home draws on all these experiences to tell a story that is tender, hilarious and decidedly uplifting.
It's often through reading that we are exposed to people whose lifestyle, culture or religion is vastly different from ours. In The Sign for Home, Blair Fell accomplishes this sometimes difficult task in a seemingly effortless manner ... Through this very expressive narrative, we learn—to the extent that any seeing/hearing person can—what it feels like to live unable to hear sounds or see the world around you ... Fell shares their thoughts and feelings, and we are privy to their innermost secrets. It's impossible to convey the brilliance of the writing—the emotion, the insight, the heartbreaking plot—in a short review ... Reading The Sign for Home will cause you to experience many emotions, from indignation to horror to heartbreak. Ultimately, though, this is a novel about the power of love—not just romantic love but the love that evolves from friendship. It's a beautiful story that’s powerfully told.