Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

A Novel

Book - 2016
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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
Branch Call Number: FIC Mbue
Characteristics: 382 pages

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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.

o
ownedbydoxies
Oct 11, 2017

A very timely novel about hard-working 'dreamers' hoping to make a new and better life for themselves and their children in the US. The author details two very different marriages, with very different ways of approaching life's struggles, and as she happens to also be a 'dreamer', although in her case a successful one in that she has achieved green card status, I'm thinking her portrayal is particularly honest and to the point. I'm not American, I live in Canada, but we see headlines from south of us all the time, and in my estimation the current attitudes towards immigrants are very well depicted in this book.

b
becker
Sep 06, 2017

This book is about a couple from Cameroon who are living in New York City and are actively trying to secure their papers so they can stay. It is also about an American couple who hire the African husband to be their chauffeur. The two families become involved somewhat in each other's lives and we see both the joys as well as the struggles that both couples face. What I loved about this book was how you get to see things from every side. The good and bad of both the rich American family as well as the immigrant family. I didn't think there were any obvious villains in this story. Each character had strong and weak qualities and they were all just doing the best they could in their own lives which were messy at times. I liked all of them, despite their flaws. This was a very readable and engaging story.

b
brangwinn
Sep 03, 2017

This is the kind of book that remains with me. When I look at an immigrant, I realize I don’t understand the issues they are dealing with at all in a foreign culture. Yes, America is great, but if you are among the many families struggling for legitimate visas, worrying about deportation trying to raise a family while being subservient to employers who hold the key to everything in your life, life is much different that for those of us born here. The image of a duck calm on top of the water, yet paddling as hard as they can came to mind while I was reading this book. I loved the juxtaposition of the Cameroonian family working for a wealthy Wall Street banking family. Each had their own problems. One involved the use of drugs and alcohol and denial of how they got to be in such an envied position and the other the determined effort of a family for education and a salary that would allow them to meet the monthly necessities.

s
spiderfelt_0
Sep 03, 2017

The book captured my attention right away, but as the story progressed, the characters began acting in surprising ways. While several people have said this is a book about immigration, I think it is also a commentary on marriage and the impact of stress on well-being. Even though I didn't love the book, i would still recommend it, simply because we need to read more stories centered around the struggles of the working poor.

d
dontbugmeimreading
Jul 19, 2017

A good story of a couple with a son trying to make it as illegal immigrants in New York City. Not a book I would have picked up on my own, so, thank-you Oprah for recommending it. Wish it had recipes for some of the Cameroonian dishes mentioned throughout the book, or at least a glossary explaining what they were. (I googled Puff-Puff and they resemble Timbits.)

archreads Jul 18, 2017

A compelling look at the current immigrant experience through the eyes of a young family from Cameroon immigrating to NYC and trying to obtain citizenship.

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 the financial crisis--and how their families become inextricably linked.

n
NWPLindabear
Mar 05, 2017

This is a highly topical book given everything that is happening with immigration and refugees in North America. And very readable, although the writing was a bit amateurish at times, which is somewhat fair given this is the author's first book. At times, the dialogue given, particularly when the rich, employer was on the phone, read like a high school play. Being a parent, I kept wondering where the heck Jende and Neni's kids were. They lived in this tiny apartment, but would have these long arguments and the kids would conveniently sleep through them? Yeah, no way. I was also put off by the attempt to make the reader feel sympathetic for the rich family. Rich people have problems too! Right, but it detracted from the more important immigrant story, which was compelling and felt genuinely chaotic. Throughout the book, my gut ached for Jende and Neni and their disparate emotional struggles with trying to stay in the United States. In spite of what I recognize as my own nitpicking with the writing, I would recommend this book and I do look forward to reading more works by this author in the future as her writing develops.

d
dwalkbels
Feb 02, 2017

This is one of my top all time favourite books to read. An eye opening novel that helps one see things that are happening within our world from a different and frank perspective. I thank the author for sharing it.

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AL_MARYA 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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