Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

A Novel

eBook - 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
A New York Times Notable Book
  • Finalist for 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
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

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    s
    susan_findlay
    Apr 15, 2020

    This book shouldn't have taken as long to read as it did, but Covid-19 happened, leaving me with no time for anything outside of work and family.

    With that out of the way, I thought this book was a fantastic look into a lifestyle I've had very little exposure to. The characters were complex, interesting and well-developed. They felt real. As did the story. I appreciated all the cultural references and the wide variety of secondary characters as well as the core family. I suspect that I would have enjoyed it even more had I been able to focus on it over a shorter period of time.

    Strongly recommend.

    b
    becker
    Jul 18, 2019

    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.

    n
    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.

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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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