- 401 pages
- Debut Author
- Genre Fiction
- Romantic Interest
- Deaf/Deafblind Community
- Coming of Age
- Dual POV
The Sign For Home follow the story of Arlo Dilly, a young Deafblind adult who has spent most of his adulthood secluded from his community. Growing up a Jehovah’s Witness, Arlo has always been told he needs to be devout, and his uncle and guardian, Brother Birch, gives him no other choice. Brother Birch restricts Arlo’s internet, limits his available technological tools, and locks him away from anyone who is not a devout, practicing JW.
Yet, when Arlo convinces his uncle to allow him to sign up for a writing class, on the premise of helping him become a better JW, the local Abilities Institute decides to hire an outside interpreter who is not only far from the JW world, but also a gay atheist. Arlo’s new interpreter, Cyril, is astounded to find Arlo’s complete lack of connection to the Deafblind community and actively advocates to change Arlo’s future, starting with connection Arlo with his childhood Deafblind friends and the love interest that got away.
The Sign for Home is an accurate and heart-warming representation of the disabled community, the challenges Deafblind individuals face, and the story of a young adult who just wants to find love, like everyone else.
I don’t give away 5 stars willy nilly, so when I say that The Sign For Home deserves 6+ stars–it must be good.
There are very few books that have touched my heart the way that The Sign For Home has. In fact, there are very few books (at all) that have even made by 5 star list. I resolved to read this novel after doing some research about disabled protagonists (you can read all about that by clicking here). I read Sara Novic’s True Biz first, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m not sure it can compare to how well written The Sign For Home is.
Ironically, what drew me to this book was the front cover. While it’s a cute teal color with a punchy font, I was most attracted to the cartoon guide dog guiding the cartoon man on the front. If you’re not familiar about books with service dogs, well–don’t be ashamed, because there aren’t any. All in all, I’ve only been able to find three fiction book with service dogs in them, and of the three, The Sign For Home is the most well-written. That being said, I have a trained service dog and the need for representation for service dog users is certainly out there; Overall, I’m disappointed by the lack of options, book-wise. That being said, this novel met all of my expectations, and more.
The Sign For Home perfectly illustrates the struggle that many disabled individuals face getting the accommodations they need. While the reasons for this can vary, in Arlo’s case, his uncle and guardian, Brother Birch, is the cause. Brother Birch is emotionally abuse and keeps Arlo tucked away from his community and the rest of the world, claiming it will make him more devout in the JW community. Brother Birch uses Arlo for his benefit, touting him around to fundraising and call-to-action events, advertising him as their charity. As disgusting as this is (I was absolutely heartbroken and infuriated by this), I find it even more disturbing that Arlo had no clue about the accommodations available to make his life easier.
I have yet to read a book (besides this one) that so clearly outlines the difficulties that disabled individuals have with getting services and I ardently appreciated that Blair Fell outlined this in an entirely realistic way. I also loved his accurate portrayal of Snap, Arlo’s guide dog. Snap is getting older (don’t worry, she survives the book) and though she makes some mistakes, she is clearly Arlo’s main source of support in more ways than one. It’s hard to describe how much I enjoyed Snap’s character, so you’ll just have to fall in love with her yourself by reading the book.
If representation in the disabled community wasn’t enough, Blair Fell also brings representation to the LGBTQ community through Cyril, Arlo’s interpreter. I absolutely loved Cyril’s perspective and I really appreciated getting to see his struggle between helping Arlo and his ethical boundaries has Arlo’s interpreter. While I’m not an interpreter and can’t be an accurate judge, I would deign to say that Cyril’s perspective is probably pretty realistic for his job, as well.
I don’t think there are enough words to describe how much I enjoyed The Sign For Home, and my review truly doesn’t do the book justice–it’s certainly my favorite book of the year and it’s one I’ll be recommending to anyone and everyone.
The Sign For Home has some incredible writing, with a unique style between both protagonists. Besides this, the accurate depictions and the unbelievably heart-warming love story will tug at your emotions and have you thinking about it for a long time to come.
The one thing I will say about this book, is that if I had to change anything–I would change the description of the ASL signs that Blair Fell adds to this book. The signs are described in detail, but it was difficult for me to picture what they looked like, unlike Sara Novic’s True Biz, which actually provided us with illustrations as well as the description. I found myself skipping over most of the short descriptions about how to sign, which I would think were put in the book to educate hearing people–so this is probably something I would change if I could.
Overall, there are very few notes I have for The Sign For Home–I absolutely loved this book and even from reading the first few pages, I knew it would be one of my favorite books for the year.
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