Title: The Sign for Home
Author: Blair Fell
Publication date: April 5th, 2022
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.
The Sign For Home is a special book that allows a very marginalized and underrepresented community the limelight and a voice. DeafBlind is not a community I have any familiarity with outside of Helen Keller, and I didn’t even know Tactile Sign Language existed. Blair Fell created a dual POV story featuring Arlo, a 23 year DeafBlind Jehovah’s Witness with a traumatic past and Cyril, his older, gay interpreter that was hired to assist with a college class.
The more you learn about Arlo’s story, the more your heart breaks. Not just in terms of being DeafBlind, but the rhetoric the JW community led him to believe and the restrictions he faced when he trusted family and friends. I have no opinion on the JW faith as a whole – this isn’t a forum for that. But, I think everyone who reads this can see that the JW community depicted is neglectful, abusive, and untrustworthy. You see Cyril giving Arlo a look into the world outside of what he has been fed by his caretakers, and it’s beautiful to see even if it’s sad.
The writing style is very unique as well. Arlo’s chapters are written in ASL translated to English, so the grammar and word choice is very different than you would normally see in written English. It’s also a look into how different the language is and the issues those who are Deaf and DeafBlind have when they don’t have the opportunity to learn English. The world really is set up for hearing-sighted.
I could continue to go on but I really just want to highlight the importance of this book not just for entertainment purposes but education and awareness. I left this book learning something about a community that I haven’t been exposed to and that’s a beautiful thing.
Thank you to Atria and Edelweiss for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
Happy reading, folks!