The Sign for Home: A Novel (Hardcover)

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The Sign for Home: A Novel By Blair Fell Cover Image

The Sign for Home: A Novel (Hardcover)

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“Unforgettable and completely unique! Fell illuminates DeafBlind life in Arlo Dilly, who will steal your heart as he journeys to experience life and independence, and to break free of those who have been holding him back. A must read!”
— Maxwell Gregory, Madison Street Books, Chicago, IL

Staff Reviews


A Sign for Home demonstrates that a book does not have to be either character or plot driven.
Sometimes a book excels in providing both engaging characters and an interesting plot. I really don’t want to say a lot about the story itself because a large part of the reading experience is getting to know the characters and letting the story unfold.

I enjoyed the alternating perspectives, and I really appreciated Arlo’s which gave me a peek into how he makes meaning of his surroundings through use of his senses as well as how he communicates with both himself and others. The use of second person narrative for Arlo was an interesting choice. Some might find it off-putting, but I didn’t mind. Cyril gives excellent insight into what the role of an interpreter should and should not be as he tries to decide the extent of his ethical responsibilities to let Arlo know he has opportunities to advocate for himself and expand his world while not overstepping his professional boundaries and interfere. He provides an excellent foil to Molly, Arlo’s long-time interpreter, who is complicit in fulfilling his uncle’s desires to narrow Arlo’s world to the confines of their strict religious beliefs. One of the things I liked best is that Arlo, Cyril, Molly, and Hanne (and perhaps even Professor Bahr) needed each other to gain new perspectives and move beyond the constraints of their current existences. Although the ending was a bit chaotic, over the top, and improbable, perhaps that was the point. It also seems almost improbable to have a life controlled by others leading to such a limited existence. However, actual people inhabit our world whose lives most likely reflect a similar reality.
Fell’s deep roots in the Deaf and DeafBlind community provided a unique snapshot into a world most of us are unfamiliar with and can barely comprehend. I appreciated the gift of depth and complexity that I was given in this story. Driven by quirky but relatable characters, it was a joyful exploration of seeking the opportunities to live your life to its fullest potential. It raises many questions about control, values, and human existence. Who gets to decide what is a life well lived? What is important to having a rich life? Why is it important? Should you be defined by your limitations? And who gets to decide what is a limitation?

— Cori

Longlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

When a young DeafBlind man learns the girl he thought was lost forever might still be out there, he embarks on a life-changing journey to find her—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.
Blair Fell writes and lives in Jackson Heights, New York, with his partner. Blair’s television work includes Queer as Folk, and the Emmy Award–winning California Connected. He’s written dozens of plays including the award-winning plays Naked Will, The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun, and the downtown cult miniseries Burning Habits. His personal essays have appeared in HuffPostOutDaily News (New York), and more. He’s a two-time winner of the prestigious Doris Lippman Prize in Creative Writing from the City College of New York, including for his early unfinished draft of The Sign for Home. Concurrently with being a writer, Blair has been an ASL interpreter for the Deaf since 1993, and has also worked as an actor, producer, and director.
Product Details ISBN: 9781982175955
ISBN-10: 1982175958
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: April 5th, 2022
Pages: 416
Language: English
*The 2022 Pride Reading List: 72 New Books to Read All Year*
— Goodreads

"As if complex characters, a compelling voice, smart stylistic choices, and the fierce defense of diversity, accessibility, and equality were not enough, THE SIGN FOR HOME also immersed me in an engrossing and important conversation I knew too little about. I closed this book more enlightened, more engaged, and more hopeful than I was when I opened it, and I enjoyed every page along the way."
— Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of ONE TWO THREE

"A hilarious, peculiar and very touching story about a deaf, blind Jehovah’s Witness boy and his gay interpreter."
— James Hannaham, author of the PEN/Faulkner Award winner, DELICIOUS FOODS

"Fell writes with a deep compassion and keen attention to the experiences of living with deafness and blindness. This heartfelt romance is hard to resist."
— Publishers Weekly

"A unique coming-of-age romance."
— Buzzfeed

"Tender, hilarious and decidedly uplifting."
— BookPage

“Poignant . . . . Riveting”
— Los Angeles Times

*April's Most Anticipated*
— The Millions

"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."
— BookReporter.com