I have recently noticed that my home, the place I am most comfortable, is formed by love. My family, my friends, my beliefs, my interests in social issues, my little pink stuffed pig with ballet slippers on its feet—I love and am passionate about each of these things. When I love an individual, I feel comfortable around them because I know that our relationship extends beyond the superficial day to day actions. They accept me for who I am. I can be authentic in their presence and rant about the issues that are important to me. Love provides me with the ability to be comfortable with other human beings, and it allows me to be comfortable with myself. The comfort that stems from the love I feel for these people and the passion I have for social issues, allows me to create a home in their presence. I can sit back and kick my feet up, let go of my self-conscious tendencies, and embrace who I really. This feeling is independent of whether or not I am with my family, or discussing the injustices I am fighting.
This process of love creating a sense of comfort, and turning into a home, personally extends to the realm of literature. While reading I can literally sit back and kick my feet up. I lose myself in novels; I connect to the characters, and the hardships the author describes. I can find my past, my struggles, in the chapters. I love the world novels allow me to enter. I am most comfortable when I am diving into a book. It is very unusual for me to find a book that I cannot love, a book that does not make me feel comfortable, a book that is not my home. Sadly, I did not feel at home while reading Sons of the Return Home. Yes, I enjoyed it, and I respected the universal aspects of the novel, but I could not love it.
After trying to figure out why I was lost, why I was so disconnected from my home, why I could not find my past in the novel, I realized that I was not comfortable reading the novel. I was angry, and my home cannot be founded on anger.
Wendt’s novel is a discovery of home and an exploration of the definition of love. The main male character undergoes a struggle to find a home and become comfortable with his Samoan identity. Wendt writes “by loving her, he was feeling for the first time a growing and meaningful attachment to the country which had bred her” (24). Love allows him to find a home in another person and to extend that sense of comfort to the world around him, which he once secluded himself from. According to Wendt, love is “the cure” (208) for affliction, love is found when individuals “grow together” (136), and “love commits one totally to life and to death” (129). Love keeps an individual living. Love cures the pain an individual experiences so that he or she can live completely in the present moment. Most importantly, love allows an individual to find a home in the presence of another human being, shattering cultural boundaries.
The definition Sons of the Return Home establishes about the meaning of love is completely broken when the main character physically abuses the women in his life, the women he loves. The novel ends with Wendt writing “he had to do it. He hit her” (215). The man completely disregards the loving bond between a mother and her children. And he suffers no consequences. The character validates his actions by saying it was with a “forgiving hand” (215) and the act allowed him to be “free at last” (215). But if love is an influential part of the Samoan way of life, and the path to finding home, than I cannot accept his character, I cannot bring him into my home because he goes against everything I am fighting for.
My world has become consumed by spreading awareness regarding sexual assault and relationship abuse. My home is Take Back the Night. I am passionate about sexual assault, and the injustices women experience. For this reason, I could not find comfort in a book which condones violence towards women. The main characters actions towards his mother and girlfriend degrade the definition of love Wendt arrives at. If you love someone than why would you physically abuse them? Physical abuse in a relationship does not allow for personal growth. When a person is forced into submission, he or she cannot develop as an individual and therefore the relationship cannot grow and love is ultimately lost. Sons for the Return Home offers the reader a definition of love, but that definition is made invalid by the violent actions of the characters. And those same actions did not allow me to be at home in the novel, to find myself in the characters, to be comforted.