This novel has quickly become one of my favorite books. I felt immediately connected to both main characters and the reality and truth found throughout the book was easy to identify with. A question that stuck out in my mind throughout reading “Sons for the Return Home” was the conflict between generations in families. Much of the novels we have read have involved different generations and their different takes on homelands. I began to wonder where a person’s home truly is. Is our home simply where our parents’ home is, or do we need to find our own way in order to truly feel “at home”? I think this question is the main problem for the boy in the novel. Growing up in New Zealand and living there for 20 years, he began to slowly identify himself with the land and feel “at home” through his love for the girl. Nevertheless, his “homeland” was always referred to as Samoa. I found this ironic. After 20 years of living, educating, and growing in a place, how can this not be his home? Can it be possible that he and his parents have different homelands? This question is similar for immigrants as well. People who have left their home countries to come to America still identify their homeland as Ireland, Italy, Germany, or wherever they have come from. However, the children of these families reside in America for that “at home” feeling. This inevitably will cause a separation amongst generations and within families. This idea touches upon the poem we read in class where the young girl must speak her parents’ foreign language at home and speak English outside. Is it possible to close the gap between the divide amongst generations and their varying homelands?
The title of the novel was also particularly intriguing to me. “Sons for the Return Home” implies that the two sons, having been in exile for 20 years, are being prepared and educated simply for their return back to Samoa. The sons are the means for the parents to exude their prominence and wealth within the Samoan community. In a small, under-developed country like Samoa, how can the younger son utilize his degrees and maintain a prosperous life? It seems that Wendt is almost implying that their exile was simply to gain the necessary power for the parents to return home and claim their status. The title is ironic because I do not believe that Samoa is truly the younger son’s home. He is not returning home but rather leaving the only home he has ever known, New Zealand. His home is with the girl and when this is stripped from him he must find a new place to feel “at home”.
I think it’s possible to feel “at home” anywhere. It is not the location, but the people who surround you, that make you feel at home. Further, our home may not be the same as our parent’s homes. While I love my hometown, I sincerely feel the need to go out in the world and find my own home and my own sense of belonging. As generations continue to shift, the definition of homeland will remain the same. A homeland is a place of comfort where one is surrounded by the people and places that make them feel at ease. For the boy in the novel, his home is with the girl as he truly comes alive once he meets her. So how do we know how to be truly alive? I think this question can only be answered when one has found their own home.