I always feel at a bit of a loss when a character has a disability that I myself have never encountered in a personal way. It’s difficult for me to critique whether the writer has given an authentic spin to her character’s challenges. While I can’t truly comment on authenticity due to having little to no contact with anyone who lives a life with blindness, I can and will draw a few conclusions based on limited insight and what I think denotes common sense as it relates to this character’s behavior and that of his husband. First Sight by Jordan Taylor is a different kind of story—not quite a romance, not quite a coming of age or coming out novel. In the end I think this novel will have vastly different interpretations by each person who reads it.
Noah saw Archer at school and decided he was the most beautiful boy he’d ever seen. But Archer was not interested in anything to do with Noah or anyone else for that matter, so, for many weeks, the cartoon comics Noah drew in private began to all bear an uncanny resemblance to the boy in the hooded sweatshirt. Finally, Noah managed to crack Archer’s icy exterior and the two boys became friends. As time passed, their relationship grew closer and although Noah had always been out to his family, Archer hadn’t and so any type of public affections between the boys never happened. Then tragedy struck and Archer was diagnosed with a rare eye disease that would render him completely blind at the age of eighteen. Despite his desire to curl up in a ball and mourn his loss, Noah was given little time to feel self pity due to Archer’s insistence that he resume living life as best as he possibly could. The two remained faithful to each other and eventually, after some relationship turmoil, the young men moved in together and married. Here is where the first part of the novel ends and the second begins—with their honeymoon to Amsterdam. Little did either man know how much that fateful honeymoon trip would test the limits of their love for each other and find chink after chink in their relationship armor.
The first thing I noticed is how Archer seems to both deeply love and somewhat bully his new husband, Noah. The author wisely allows the individual observer to determine if they like the dynamic between Archer and Noah or are put off by the fact that Archer often seems to disregard Noah’s feelings, his fears, and, in some regards, his blindness. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but there were times in this book when I felt that Noah and Archer acted as though Noah wasn’t blind at all and that attitude often led to conflict between them. Despite Noah being immature and playing the victim at times, I often felt Archer was a bit unfeeling and uncaring of Noah’s needs. For instance, taking a blind man out to a strange restaurant to eat a noodle dish is pretty intense. I felt like other food choices could have been made so as not to embarrass your spouse as they chased their food. That portion of the story even reveals that eventually poor Noah gave up and nearly put his face in the bowl in order to successfully eat. It was these little things that happened over and over that made me a bit uncomfortable with the story. I tried to understand that perhaps this was a bit of tough love on Archer’s part to make Noah realize he could still be active and aware even though blind, but often I felt it was pushed too far and it felt more mean-spirited than I think the author intended.
The other thing that really stood out was Archer’s absolute insistence to not be physically affectionate in public—not even holding hands or giving a quick kiss when the circumstances definitely called for either or both to happen. Even though it was stated he’d come out to his parents, Archer still couldn’t relax—I felt that didn’t bode well for their marriage, frankly, or for their relationship at all. Consequently, I got very little sense of their chemistry together. I recognized a friendship for sure, but a successful marriage takes a bit more than just friendship and that hint of casual intimacy seen in most newlyweds was definitely lacking here. With that key element missing, Archer sometimes seemed crueler than kind to Noah and, in turn, Noah seemed all the more immature. I found myself not really liking either man after a while.
However, I do recognize that reaction is very personal and, as far as the writing goes, Jordan Taylor knows how to tell a good story, Between the personal conflict, a well done scene depicting a rather scary event of Noah’s own making that left him in real danger, and Archer’s worry and fear for his husband, the story was a compelling read. There is no doubting that this author knows how to create a good, cohesive book and while I may have some concerns about this one, the author has produced others that are really topnotch. In the end, First Sight, left me more ambivalent and confused than satisfied, leading me to rating it in the middle, but to also encourage you to check it out for yourself and see what you think.