Title: Behold the Dreamers
Author: Imbolo Mbue
Pages: 400 Pages
Publisher: Random House/Harper Collins
In the vein of Amy Tan and Khaled Hosseini comes a compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy.
Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.
However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.
When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.
To say that Behold the Dreamers is not the usual type of fiction that I read would be an understatement. I usually read books to harbour a level of escapism. It is rare that I choose to read a book with such gritty realism but that is exactly what I got from Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel.
The story follows Jende and Neni, immigrants from Cameroon who are awaiting their legal papers and green card. They have come to New York, eyes full of glitter and heads full of the American dream. However, they soon realise that life in America is not that easy.
What was truly wonderful about Behold the Dreamers was the juxtaposition of African and American values alongside the beliefs and reality about each existence. Jende and Neni believe that life in America is full of hope and that they will live the best life there, whereas the American contingent knows the flaws of these views. We see as the story develops that the people who seem to have everything have not much at all and those with little seem to have the world.
Behold the Dreamers is a really interesting, well written and compelling novel the likes of which I can honestly say I have never read before. It was an ambitious debut by Imbolo Mbue and one that she has executed with finesse.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is available now.
For more information regarding Imbolo Mbue please visit www.imbolombue.com.
For more information regarding Random House (@randomhouse) please visit www.randomhousebooks.com.
For more information regarding Harper Collins (@HarperCollins) please visit www.harpercollins.com.