- File Size: 1901 KB
- Print Length: 401 pages
- Publisher: Random House; Reprint edition (August 23, 2016)
- Publication Date: August 23, 2016
- Sold by: Random House LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0138OAB80
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,769 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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“A fresh, engaging entry into the eternally evolving narrative of what it means to be an American—and how human beings, not laws or dogma, define liberty.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Even as Behold the Dreamers takes some dark, vicious turns, it never feels cheaply cynical, grounded as it is in the well-imagined characters who try, through whatever means possible, to protect their families and better their lives.”—USA Today
“In Imbolo Mbue’s sprightly debut . . . songs of innocence and arrogance collide.”—Vogue
“Imagine Lorraine Hansberry’s play/film A Raisin in the Sun with a Cameroonian cast of characters in early twenty-first century New York City, and you may come up with something close to Behold the Dreamers, a poignant and bittersweet debut.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Behold the Dreamers . . . just might be the most accessible novel I’ve ever read. . . . Mbue does an admirable job of developing characters whose lives seem so heartbreakingly real that the pages of this book often seem like something of a confinement. When you close the book, you will hear their pain. You might feel them calling for you.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“The Help meets House of Cards meets the read that’ll make you forget all about your morning commute.”—theSkimm
“Undocumented immigration, the widening gulf between rich and poor, and the thinly veiled racism of an avowedly ‘post-racial’ culture converge in this new generation of immigrants’ painful encounter with the American Dream. . . . The prose grows luminous.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Mbue’s outsider’s perceptions of American life—its stresses, its excesses—are sharp. . . . She’s also shrewd on the disruptions that come with the Jongas leaving their native land for a dream that may be a delusion.”—The Seattle Times
“An utterly unique novel about immigration, race, and class—and an important one, as well.”—BookPage
“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.”—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. . . . Behold the Dreamers is a capacious, big-hearted novel.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Mbue’s writing is warm and captivating.”—People (book of the week)
“Mbue is a wonderful writer with an uncanny ear for dialogue—there are no false notes here, no narrative shortcuts, and certainly no manufactured happy endings. 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
“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. . . . At once critical and hopeful, Behold the Dreamers traces the political and economic systems that push individuals toward dishonesty, while also acknowledging the bad and affirming the good in their complicated personal choices.”—The Boston Globe
“A witty, compassionate, swiftly paced novel that takes on race, immigration, family and the dangers of capitalist excess. In her debut novel, Mbue has crafted a compelling view of twenty-first-century America.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Behold the Dreamers reveals Mbue as 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
“At once a sad indictment of the American dream and a gorgeous testament to the enduring bonds of family, Mbue’s powerful first novel will grip and move you right up to its heartfelt ending.”—Shelf Awareness
“Mbue proves herself a clear-eyed, unflinching storyteller, and Behold the Dreamers is a fearless, head-on journey into the thorny contemporary issues of American exceptionalism.”—Interview Magazine
“Gripping and beautifully told.”—Good Housekeeping
“At once an ode to New York City and an elegy for the American Dream, Behold the Dreamers reads like a film, shuttling effortlessly between a Cameroonian chauffeur’s Harlem and an investment banker’s Upper East Side. . . . There are no heroes in this marvelous debut, only nuanced human beings. A classic tale with a surprise ending, as deeply insightful as it is entertaining.”—Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go
“Mbue’s fantastic debut is much more than an immigrant story, a tale of the 2007 financial collapse, or the intersections of the rich and poor in New York—it’s about how the American Dream can fail anyone, and whether hope can survive. An empathetic, timely, and deeply welcome novel.”—J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
“Eminently readable, deeply empathetic, and often humorous, Behold the Dreamers offers the stark reality of the American Dream as we rarely see it in fiction. In its pages, Americans are made, fortunes are won and lost, and America’s flawed dream-makers and its striving dreamers clash and come alive. With forthright prose and unforgettable characters, Behold the Dreamers is a subversive delight.”—Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Green Island
“Imbolo Mbue would be a formidable storyteller anywhere, in any language. It’s our good luck that she and her stories are American.”—Jonathan Franzen, National Book Award–winning author of Purity and Freedom
“Dazzling, fast-paced, and exquisitely written, Behold the Dreamers is one of those rare novels that will change the way you see the world. Imbolo Mbue is a breathtaking talent.”—Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
“Who is this Imbolo Mbue and where has she been hiding? Her writing is startlingly beautiful, thoughtful, and both timely and timeless. She’s taking on everything from family to the Great Recession to immigration while deftly reminding us what it means to truly believe in ‘the American Dream.’”—Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award–winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn
“It’s rare that a book is so fascinating, so emotionally compelling, and so beautiful that I literally can’t put it down. I picked Behold the Dreamers up one evening before bed. I turned the last page at dawn. It ruined the next day for me—I wasn’t much good for anything but a nap—but it was worth every lost hour.”—Ayelet Waldman, New York Times bestselling author of Love and Treasure
“A beautiful book about one African couple starting a new life in a new land, Behold the Dreamers will teach you as much about the promise and pitfalls of life in the United States as about the immigrants who come here in search of the so-called American dream.”—Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey and winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“Among the spate of novels forged in the crucible of the previous decade, Mbue’s impressive debut deserves a singular place. . . . Realistic, tragic, and still remarkably kind to all its characters, this is a special book.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A fast-paced, engaging read with an interesting cross-cultural background.”—Library Journal
“The Jongas are . . . vivid, and the book’s unexpected ending—and its sharp-eyed focus on issues of immigration, race, and class—speak to a sad truth in today’s cutthroat world: the American dream isn’t what it seems.”—Publishers Weekly
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Economic and social worlds collide as the husband, Jende, lands a job as a driver for a high level Lehman Brothers executive and his family - just a few months before Lehman disintegrates and kicks off the Great Recession. Soon, Jende and his wife, Neni, find themselves pulled into the messy personal lives of his (and eventually hers, too) employer, Clark Edwards, and his family. As Wall Street and the elite are rocked to their cores with the economic crisis, both the Edwardses and the Jongas find themselves facing devastating choices...
And then things get worse, and worse again. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this book three or four years ago, before Trump arrived on the national stage and made the entire nation feel compromised, crisis-driven, and more aware than ever of the tawdry lives many choose to lead. But instead, this book just depressed the hell out of me. A total downer. I hope Mbue’s next book offers at least a little light, because she is a fine writer. But this book felt burdensome to me.
As founder of a US 501C3 in partnership with my Cameroonian sisters and brothers to build a residential secondary school in Cameroon, I have traveled there numerous times. Mbue captures the essence of the strong sense of family, overflowing love and hospitality that I have been blessed to experience in Cameroon. I have often felt that we Americans have much to learn from them. In our pursuit of material well-being here in the US, we have lost the palpable spirituality and deep joy of many Cameroonians, in spite of the overwhelming hardships many face.
Kudos to Imbolo Mbue for capturing so eloquently that which often eludes explanation. Highly readable, fast moving, and skillfully crafted, Behold the Dreamers will stay with you long after the last page is read.
The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Geitz
Author, I Am That Child: Changing Hearts and Changing the World, and more
The place: New York City. Well, to be exact a corner office on Wall Street with floor to ceiling windows offering a breathtaking view, a posh Upper East Side apartment that is decorated to the nines and a one-bedroom, cockroach-infested fifth-floor walk-up in Harlem.
The main characters: Clark Edwards is a hotshot investment banker at Lehman Brothers, while his beautiful, too-thin wife, Cindy, spends her time shopping, lunching and summering in the Hamptons. Jende Jonga, an illegal immigrant from Cameroon, supports his wife, Neni, and their 6-year-old son, Liomi, doing whatever jobs he can find that do not require proof he is in the United States legally. Neni is in the country on a student visa and attends the local community college with dreams of becoming a pharmacist.
The situation: Clark hires Jende to be his and the family's full-time chauffeur, paying him $36,000 a year for 18-hour days. Jende is beside himself with happiness and hope for the future.
And then…Lehman Brothers collapses.
This magnificently written story by Imbolo Mbue is told entirely from the points of view of Jende and Neni. Clark and Cindy's stories we learn from eavesdropping on their phone conversations while Jende drives them around New York City. Jende and Neni have very little, but they are bursting with dreams and hopes for the future. Meanwhile, Clark and Cindy are impossibly wealthy but have only faded hopes and squashed dreams. It is this contrast, even more than the differences of race, class and wealth, that sets up the story for the main plot when life for both couples irrevocably and tragically changes forever with the failure of Lehman Brothers.
This remarkable story about the American dream—for those who desperately want it and those who indifferently have achieved it—is written with such verve and wisdom that it pierced my heart and soul. I highly recommend this book, which amazingly is Mbue's first novel. I eagerly await her second book.
The story is great and well written for a first novel. The author had a good story and used the characters to perfection. You got involved with each one and it helped in reading the story and staying in touch with the storyline.
I would recommend it to my family and friends. Well done!
Top international reviews
Jende Jonga has come to America from Cameroon with his wife Neni and their young son Liomi. Their hope is for a better future, filled with opportunities and experiences the like of which they could never have back home. For them, America is synonymous with happiness. The decision has been a leap of faith, involving great sacrifice. But despite the financial challenges, Jende and Neni love their new life in New York. All they need now are the ‘papers’ that will allow them to settle permanently in their adopted country. So when Jende lands a well-paid job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a wealthy Wall Street executive, it looks like everything is falling into place.
Set against the financial crash of 2008, ‘Behold the Dreamers’ is a dizzying kaleidoscope of contrasts: of poverty vs riches, hope vs disappointment, greed vs generosity, loyalty vs treachery. At its heart is the message that wealth and privilege, however appealing, are no guarantors of happiness. The novel tackles some pretty weighty themes, including race, home and family, and the links between them. It's a lot to cover in 400 pages, but I think Mbue makes a decent fist of it.
The characters of Jende and Neni are compelling in the simplicity of their aspirations. Proud and hardworking, all they want is the chance to thrive and prosper; to live the American dream. But they have no control over their destiny, and desperation has a way of bringing out the worst in even the noblest of people. I found Jende and Neni convincing and representative of the struggle aspiring immigrants face, not only in securing their status and integrating into a strange society, but also in the bigotry and humiliation that can dog their every step.
Some reviewers have criticised the characterisation of the Edwards family as being too one-dimensional. I find this point of view flippant and harsh, and perhaps a little lacking in understanding of the family’s role in the narrative. Stereotypes have the advantage of being recognizable and as such can often help deliver a stronger message. In this case, the Edwards are not the focus of the story. They are there to provide a counterpoint and to shine a light on the Jongas and their struggles.
The ending of the book took me by surprise, but I found it moving and a fitting denouement to a well-told tale. What is left unsaid, as much as what is explicit, makes this novel thought-provoking and memorable.
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I commend the writing, the language is really vibrant and interesting, there's a lot of fascinating insights.
Unfortunately, the novel lacks a true depth, it feels very very rushed and if the author was in a hurry to make her point, it's also in its entirety awfully predictable. Nothing will surprise you in this novel.
The rich Manhattan family is depicted in a such a stereotypical way, it's almost laughable. With the exception of the two main protagonists, the rest of the characters are made of cardboard. The relationship between the Jonga and Edwards family is too superficial and terribly undeveloped.
There are few bits that save this novel, namely, it's exploration of immigration, race division, the concept of home and family. However, it all could have been explored to a much greater degree and it would have made all the difference.
Imbolo Mbue is a very talented writer, there is no doubt about it. I hope her publisher will give her more freedom to really show of her talent because there's clearly great potential here for a wonderful, ambitious writing.
There was a lot about it that I loved: you care about the characters and their story. It's a good insight into what life is like as an immigrant from Cameroon to New York.
It loses some points for predictability: as a previous reviewer has said, there are no major surprises and a certain inevitability about it all. Everything proceeds pretty much as you would expect and some of the characters (like Cindy) are verging on cliche.
My other big concern (and this doesn't give anything away) is that at one point in the book, Jende (a character who you really like and care about) gives his wife Neni a horribly vicious beating. She's upset, but nothing really comes of this: it doesn't alter her feelings about him fundamentally, he doesn't seem to be held accountable for it in any way. Beyond his saying 'sorry', neither characters nor author seem to recognise this event as the fundamentally important thing that it is in a marriage. So I disliked that from the point of view of the plot, but also I worried that it would make readers who know nothing about Cameroon or its people just think 'oh maybe that's normal for them'. Which, in a book whose aim was clearly to challenge assumptions like this, felt like a big problem to me.
The end felt a bit rushed or perhaps it was because I didn't want it to end. Would like to know what happened next with this captivating family.