Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Behold the Dreamers – 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
New York Times Bestseller • Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award • Longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award • An ALA Notable Book
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
NPR • The New York Times Book Review • San Francisco Chronicle • The Guardian • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Chicago Public Library • BookPage • Refinery29 • Kirkus Reviews
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.
Praise for Behold the Dreamers
“A debut novel by a young woman from Cameroon that illuminates the immigrant experience in America with the tenderhearted wisdom so lacking in our political discourse . . . Mbue is a bright and captivating storyteller.”—The Washington Post
“A capacious, big-hearted novel.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Behold the Dreamers’ heart . . . belongs to the struggles and small triumphs of the Jongas, which Mbue traces in clean, quick-moving paragraphs.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Mbue’s writing is warm and captivating.”—People (book of the week)
“[Mbue’s] book isn’t the first work of fiction to grapple with the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, but it’s surely one of the best. . . . It’s a novel that depicts a country both blessed and doomed, on top of the world, but always at risk of losing its balance. It is, in other words, quintessentially American.”—NPR
“This story is one that needs to be told.”—Bust
“Behold the Dreamers challenges us all to consider what it takes to make us genuinely content, and how long is too long to live with our dreams deferred.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“[A] beautiful, empathetic novel.”—The Boston Globe
“A witty, compassionate, swiftly paced novel that takes on race, immigration, family and the dangers of capitalist excess.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Mbue [is] a deft, often lyrical observer. . . . [Her] meticulous storytelling announces a writer in command of her gifts.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
An Amazon Best Book of August 2016: One of the greatest things a novel can do is to raise empathy in a reader. Behold the Dreamers does that slowly and surely, as Mbue tells the story of Jende Jonga, his wife Neni, and their six-year-old son. Jende has arrived from Cameroon, and after a stint working as a dishwasher he lands a job as the driver for Clark Edwards, an executive who is reaping a fortune at the soon-to-be doomed Lehman Brothers. Jende is poor, living in Harlem, but with his new job he is able to move his wife and son to New York—he feels he is on the fast track to his American dream. Clark is rich, but has troubles of his own, and conversations in the car—private ones between Jende and members of the Edwards family, talks overheard on cell phones—begin to reveal these fissures. In this wonderful debut novel, we watch events unfold for both families in ways that suggest the American dream might be more fragile than advertised. Mbue is a master of presenting a scene and allowing the reader to see between the lines; the result is the thrill of feeling that, for one of those rare times, we might be able to accurately imagine what it’s like to be someone different from ourselves. –Chris Schluep, The Amazon Book Review
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