Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

A Novel

Book - 2016 | First edition.
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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

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST

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' fa#65533;ades.

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

"Mbue writes with great confidence and warmth. . . . There are a lot of spinning plates and Mbue balances them skillfully, keeping everything in motion. . . . A capacious, big-hearted novel." -- The New York Times Book Review

"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

"Imbolo Mbue's masterful debut about an immigrant family struggling to obtain the elusive American Dream in Harlem will have you feeling for each character from the moment you crack it open." -- In Style

"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 . . . Mbue's narrative energy and sympathetic eye soon render . . . commonplace ingredients vivid, complex, and essential." -- 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, plumbing the desires and disappointments of our emerging global culture." --Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A revelation . . . Mbue has written a clever morality tale that never preaches but instead teaches us the power of integrity." -- Essence
Publisher: New York :, Random House,, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780812998481
0812998480
Characteristics: 382 pages

Opinion

From Library Staff

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ehbooklover Oct 17, 2017

A compulsively readable book about the experiences of two very different families in New York City during the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the recession that followed it. I loved the complicated and flawed characters as well as the unpredictable ending.

Comment
debwalker Jun 28, 2017

June 28 2017: Oprah Winfrey has chosen Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers as the latest Oprah's Book Club Pick. The debut novel tells the story of two fathers--a working-class immigrant from Cameroon who is hired as a chauffeur by a top Lehman Brothers executive in the fall of 2007, just before th... Read More »


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nalahblueberry5
Jun 22, 2019

I really enjoyed this easy to read, full of believeable characters and foreign culture novel. Good job. Would read her again, for sure

m
maureenxcho
Jun 13, 2019

26 copies. 12 available. American dream immigrant story. Cameroon culture.

c
cycloPhil
Feb 13, 2019

Good reflection on how quickly the American dream falls apart when immigrant see the real US. Nice dive into a bit of Cameroonian culture too.

j
joianng
Feb 12, 2019

i cried though this entire book and the ending just made me want to jump off a cliff. It was so captivating and emotion pulling and the ending just upset me. But that's how you know its a good book. I finished it in about 4 days. Real page turner.

l
Linyarai
Jan 19, 2019

I read this for the "A Character That Is An Immigrant" part of my 2019 reading challenge. I found it pretty slow, I enjoyed the first half of the story more than the second half. I was pretty disappointed in his decision in the end.

m
mayog
Oct 29, 2018

Imbolo Mbue holds up a mirror to the American Dream and raises all sorts of questions about its worth, questions worth pondering through the eyes of these two families.

Set at the advent of the Obama era, Mbue's story of Cameroonian immigrants and their interaction with a rich white American family explores all of the seams behind the facade of life in America, particularly life in New York City.

At the end, the novel hopeful, but not for any of the reasons that one typically imagines. Instead, Mbue's novel invites the reader to shift focus and gaze from what contemporary culture considers "success," and to examine with a critical eye the fractured existences upon which that success can be built.

LPL_KateG Jun 22, 2018

My book club enjoyed this and had a great discussion about immigration, the American Dream, class differences in various places, and what it means to live a satisfying life. This novel was compelling and had characters who were complex and interesting. I would highly recommend this for a book club!

m
MyTake
May 23, 2018

I loved the pace, the plot twists, the references to another culture. It's impressive that this book is her first. I look forward to reading other books that she may write.

o
orange_lobster_23
Apr 07, 2018

The lives of Cameroonian immigrants aspiring U.S. citizens and Jende Jonga and his wife Nendi become intertwined with that of his Lehman executive employer and family in
this tense and heart-breaking story set in 2007 N.Y.C. A sad and compassionate look at the lives of struggling immigrants and a formerly comfortable family after the 2007 Lehman brothers collapse. A compelling read and winner of the 2016 PEN/Faulkner Award.

u
uncommonreader
Mar 29, 2018

This is not a badly written book, but it tells an ordinary story through a rose-tinted lens. A family of immigrants from Cameroon, believing in the American dream, are desperate to stay in the United States for its material benefits. The story is redeemed in the last few chapters.

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ArapahoeMaryA Sep 27, 2017

Jalaluddin Rumi, the Sufi mystic. He’s the one who said, ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’ Which was his own way of saying, ‘Let’s not dwell too much on labeling things as right or wrong.

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