Behold the sale Dreamers: lowest A Novel online

Behold the sale Dreamers: lowest A Novel online

Behold the sale Dreamers: lowest A Novel online

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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

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

Review

“As a dissection of the American Dream, Imbolo Mbue’s first novel is savage and compassionate in all the right places.” The New York Times

“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

About the Author

Imbolo Mbue is a native of the seaside town of Limbe, Cameroon. She holds a BS from Rutgers University and an MA from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for more than a decade, she lives in New York City.

Behold the Dreamers, her critically acclaimed debut novel, won the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was named by The New York Times and  The Washington Post as one of the notable books of 2016. It was also named as a best book of 2016 by NPR,  Kirkus Reviews, the  San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The novel also won the 2017 Blue Metropolis Words to Change Prize.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

One

He’d never been asked to wear a suit to a job interview. Never been told to bring along a copy of his résumé. He hadn’t even owned a résumé until the previous week when he’d gone to the library on Thirty-­fourth and Madison and a volunteer career counselor had written one for him, detailed his work history to suggest he was a man of grand accomplishments: farmer responsible for tilling land and growing healthy crops; street cleaner responsible for making sure the town of Limbe looked beautiful and pristine; dishwasher in Manhattan restaurant, in charge of ensuring patrons ate from clean and germ-­free plates; livery cabdriver in the Bronx, responsible for taking passengers safely from place to place.

He’d never had to worry about whether his experience would be appropriate, whether his English would be perfect, whether he would succeed in coming across as intelligent enough. But today, dressed in the green double-­breasted pinstripe suit he’d worn the day he entered America, his ability to impress a man he’d never met was all he could think about. Try as he might, he could do nothing but think about the questions he might be asked, the answers he would need to give, the way he would have to walk and talk and sit, the times he would need to speak or listen and nod, the things he would have to say or not say, the response he would need to give if asked about his legal status in the country. His throat went dry. His palms moistened. Unable to reach for his handkerchief in the packed downtown subway, he wiped both palms on his pants.

“Good morning, please,” he said to the security guard in the lobby when he arrived at Lehman Brothers. “My name is Jende Jonga. I am here for Mr. Edwards. Mr. Clark Edwards.”

The guard, goateed and freckled, asked for his ID, which he quickly pulled out of his brown bifold wallet. The man took it, examined it front and back, looked up at his face, looked down at his suit, smiled, and asked if he was trying to become a stockbroker or something.

Jende shook his head. “No,” he replied without smiling back. “A chauffeur.”

“Right on,” the guard said as he handed him a visitor pass. “Good luck with that.”

This time Jende smiled. “Thank you, my brother,” he said. “I really need all that good luck today.”

Alone in the elevator to the twenty-­eighth floor, he inspected his fingernails (no dirt, thankfully). He adjusted his clip-­on tie using the security mirror above his head; reexamined his teeth and found no visible remnants of the fried ripe plantains and beans he’d eaten for breakfast. He cleared his throat and wiped off whatever saliva had crusted on the sides of his lips. When the doors opened he straightened his shoulders and introduced himself to the receptionist, who, after responding with a nod and a display of extraordinarily white teeth, made a phone call and asked him to follow her. They walked through an open space where young men in blue shirts sat in cubicles with multiple screens, down a corridor, past another open space of cluttered cubicles and into a sunny office with a four-­paneled glass window running from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, the thousand autumn-­drenched trees and proud towers of Manhattan standing outside. For a second his mouth fell open, at the view outside—­the likes of which he’d never seen—­and the exquisiteness inside. There was a lounging section (black leather sofa, two black leather chairs, glass coffee table) to his right, an executive desk (oval, cherry, black leather reclining chair for the executive, two green leather armchairs for visitors) in the center, and a wall unit (cherry, glass doors, white folders in neat rows) to his left, in front of which Clark Edwards, in a dark suit, was standing and feeding sheets of paper into a pullout shredder.

“Please, sir, good morning,” Jende said, turning toward him and half-­bowing.

“Have a seat,” Clark said without lifting his eyes from the shredder.

Jende hurried to the armchair on the left. He pulled a résumé from his folder and placed it in front of Clark’s seat, careful not to disturb the layers of white papers and Wall Street Journals strewn across the desk in a jumble. One of the Journal pages, peeking from beneath sheets of numbers and graphs, had the headline: whites’ great hope? barack obama and the dream of a color-­blind america. Jende leaned forward to read the story, fascinated as he was by the young ambitious senator, but immediately sat upright when he remembered where he was, why he was there, what was about to happen.

“Do you have any outstanding tickets you need to resolve?” Clark asked as he sat down.

“No, sir,” Jende replied.

“And you haven’t been in any serious accidents, right?”

“No, Mr. Edwards.”

Clark picked up the résumé from his desk, wrinkled and moist like the man whose history it held. His eyes remained on it for several seconds while Jende’s darted back and forth, from the Central Park treetops far beyond the window to the office walls lined with abstract paintings and portraits of white men wearing bow ties. He could feel beads of sweat rising out of his forehead.

“Well, Jende,” Clark said, putting the résumé down and leaning back in his chair. “Tell me about yourself.”

Jende perked up. This was the question he and his wife, Neni, had discussed the previous night; the one they’d read about when they Googled “the one question they ask at every job interview.” They had spent an hour hunched over the cranky desktop, searching for the best answer, reading much-­too-­similar pieces of advice on the first ten sites Google delivered, before deciding it would be best if Jende spoke of his strong character and dependability, and of how he had everything a busy executive like Mr. Edwards needed in a chauffeur. Neni had suggested he also highlight his wonderful sense of humor, perhaps with a joke. After all, she had said, which Wall Street executive, after spending hours racking his brain on how to make more money, wouldn’t appreciate entering his car to find his chauffeur ready with a good joke? Jende had agreed and prepared an answer, a brief monologue which concluded with a joke about a cow at a supermarket. That should work very well, Neni had said. And he had believed so, too. But when he began to speak, he forgot his prepared answer.

“Okay, sir,” he said instead. “I live in Harlem with my wife and with my six-­years-­old son. And I am from Cameroon, in Central Africa, or West Africa. Depends on who you ask, sir. I am from a little town on the Atlantic Ocean called Limbe.”

“I see.”

“Thank you, Mr. Edwards,” he said, his voice quivering, unsure of what he was thankful for.

“And what kind of papers do you have in this country?”

“I have papers, sir,” he blurted out, leaning forward and nodding repeatedly, goose bumps shooting up all over his body like black balls out of a cannon.

“I said what kind of papers?”

“Oh, I am sorry, sir. I have EAD. EAD, sir . . . that is what I have right now.”

“What’s that supposed—­” The BlackBerry on the desk buzzed. Clark quickly picked it up. “What does that mean?” he asked, looking down at the phone.

“It means Employment Authorization Document, sir,” Jende replied, shifting in his seat. Clark neither responded nor gestured. He kept his head down, his eyes on the smartphone, his soft-­looking fingers jumping all over the keypad, lithely and speedily—­up, left, right, down.

“It is a work permit, sir,” Jende added. He looked at Clark’s fingers, then his forehead, and his fingers again, uncertain of how else to obey the rules of eye contact when eyes were not available for contact. “It means I am allowed to work, sir. Until I get my green card.”

Clark half-­nodded and continued typing.

Jende looked out the window, hoping he wasn’t sweating too profusely.

“And how long will it take for you to get this green card?” Clark asked as he put down the BlackBerry.

“I just really don’t know, sir. Immigration is slow, sir; very funny how they work.”

“But you’re in the country legally for the long term, correct?”

“Oh, yes, sir,” Jende said. He nodded repeatedly again, a pained smile on his face, his eyes unblinking. “I am very legal, sir. I just am still waiting for my green card.”

For a long second Clark stared at Jende, his vacant green eyes giving no clue to his thoughts. Hot sweat was flowing down Jende’s back, soaking the white shirt Neni had bought for him from a street vendor on 125th Street. The desk phone rang.

“Very well, then,” Clark said, picking up the phone. “As long as you’re legal.”

Jende Jonga exhaled.

The terror that had gripped his chest when Clark Edwards mentioned the word “papers” slowly loosened. He closed his eyes and offered thanks to a merciful Being, grateful half the truth had been sufficient. What would he have said if Mr. Edwards had asked more questions? How would he have explained that his work permit and driver’s license were valid only for as long as his asylum application was pending or approved, and that if his application were to be denied, all his documents would become invalid and there would be no green card? How could he have possibly explained his asylum application? Would there have been a way to convince Mr. Edwards that he was an honest man, a very honest man, actually, but one who was now telling a thousand tales to Immigration just so he could one day become an American citizen and live in this great nation forever?

“And you’ve been here for how long?” Clark asked after putting down the receiver.

“Three years, sir. I came in 2004, in the month—­”

He paused, startled by Clark’s thunderous sneeze.

“May God bless you, sir,” he said as the executive placed his wrist under his nose and let loose another sneeze, louder than the first. “Ashia, sir,” he added. “May God bless you again.”

Clark leaned forward and picked up a bottle of water on the right side of his desk. Behind him, far beyond the spotless glass window, a red helicopter flew above the park, going from west to east under the cloudless morning sky. Jende returned his gaze to Clark and watched as he took a few sips from the bottle. He yearned for a sip of water, too, to erase the dryness in his throat, but dared not change the trajectory of the interview by asking for some. No, he couldn’t dare. Certainly not right now. His throat could be the driest spot in the Kalahari and it wouldn’t matter right now—­he was doing well. Okay, maybe not too well. But he wasn’t doing too badly, either.

“All right,” Clark said, putting down the bottle. “Let me tell you what I want in a driver.” Jende swallowed and nodded. “I demand loyalty. I demand dependability. I demand punctuality, and I demand that you do as I say and ask no questions. Works for you?”

“Yes, sir, of course, Mr. Edwards.”

“You’re going to sign a confidentiality agreement that you’ll never say anything about what you hear me say or see me do. Never. To anyone. Absolutely no one. Do you understand?”

“I understand you very clearly, sir.”

“Good. I’ll treat you right, but you must treat me right first. I’ll be your main priority, and when I don’t need you, you’ll take care of my family. I’m a busy man, so don’t expect me to supervise you. You’ve come to me very highly recommended.”

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Top reviews from the United States

M&M and Me
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Behold the Dreamers and their terrible lives
Reviewed in the United States on December 4, 2018
Imbolo Mbue produces a thoughtful debut effort, but I could not finish it soon enough. She takes readers into the lives of an immigrant family from Cameroon living in NYC’s Harlem, working without fail to achieve better lives as they also struggle to stay one step ahead of... See more
Imbolo Mbue produces a thoughtful debut effort, but I could not finish it soon enough. She takes readers into the lives of an immigrant family from Cameroon living in NYC’s Harlem, working without fail to achieve better lives as they also struggle to stay one step ahead of INS and achieve green card status.

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.
59 people found this helpful
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Elizabeth Geitz
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Haunting, Profound, and Imminently Readable
Reviewed in the United States on December 4, 2017
Behold the Dreamers is at once haunting, profound, and imminently readable. Mbue skillfully captures both the essence of Cameroonians in the diaspora, and the world of Wall Street during the 2008 recession. Weaving together the stories of 2 couples, profoundly different but... See more
Behold the Dreamers is at once haunting, profound, and imminently readable. Mbue skillfully captures both the essence of Cameroonians in the diaspora, and the world of Wall Street during the 2008 recession. Weaving together the stories of 2 couples, profoundly different but bound together in their common humanity, she shows how the American dream ultimately eludes and almost destroys them both.

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
ImaginingTomorrow.org
46 people found this helpful
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Cathryn Conroy
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This Remarkable Book Pierced My Heart and Soul
Reviewed in the United States on June 7, 2018
The time: 2008 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... See more
The time: 2008

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.
35 people found this helpful
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Mary Weimer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A wonderful sad book!
Reviewed in the United States on November 5, 2017
Neni and Jendi are Africans trying to make a home in America. They have two children, Liomi and Timba. They moved to America for a better life for the family. When Jendi lands a job driving a Wall Street Exec, he thinks that they will make it here. That is until he gets... See more
Neni and Jendi are Africans trying to make a home in America. They have two children, Liomi and Timba. They moved to America for a better life for the family. When Jendi lands a job driving a Wall Street Exec, he thinks that they will make it here. That is until he gets fired because of the economy. Lehman Bros, went down and the Exec lost his job too!

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!
20 people found this helpful
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Justin M
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Interesting glimpse into the immigrant experience
Reviewed in the United States on January 3, 2017
very interesting read about the experience of African immigrants coming to the United States. Without firsthand knowledge, the issues and struggle seemed very well represented. The characters were inconsistent - sometimes you really liked them and at other times, you... See more
very interesting read about the experience of African immigrants coming to the United States. Without firsthand knowledge, the issues and struggle seemed very well represented. The characters were inconsistent - sometimes you really liked them and at other times, you struggled to want to support them - but it all seemed very realistic and more appropriate that books where people are either good or bad. Well worth the read.
36 people found this helpful
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J H FREUNDLICH
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
the promised Land
Reviewed in the United States on April 21, 2017
This novel is based on a very current topic: immigration to the United States . It portrays the problems and emotions from the side of the immigrants. Although the u. S. Immigration policies should be followed, after reading this book , one feels the pain of those who truly... See more
This novel is based on a very current topic: immigration to the United States . It portrays the problems and emotions from the side of the immigrants. Although the u. S. Immigration policies should be followed, after reading this book , one feels the pain of those who truly believe that the US is the only land of opportunity and great promise. The disappointment that these people feel is painful!! It is truly a sad problem .
22 people found this helpful
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Book Junkie
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Well Told Tale of Humanity
Reviewed in the United States on January 18, 2018
This book is one with a wise eye and a big heart. Jende and his wife come from Camaroon to make a better life for themselves and their son. He soon goes to work as a chauffeur for a rich family, a turn off luck for all. This author does an excellent job of... See more
This book is one with a wise eye and a big heart. Jende and his wife come from Camaroon to make a better life for themselves and their son. He soon goes to work as a chauffeur for a rich family, a turn off luck for all.

This author does an excellent job of writing truly human characters that are easy to understand, even when they are not at their best. Because the author shows that no one truly has it easy nor are just "good" or "bad", generally. The story shows they gray areas that make decisions and living with the outcome a difficult slope.

We also see the common lines between all and there is so much to love in this story. It made me laugh and cry, then immediately write this review to let people know that this bibliophile happily stands by all five stars she gave and exhort anyone who enjoys a well written story to read this book. I am so glad that I did.
8 people found this helpful
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Ricotta J. Pie
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Awful book
Reviewed in the United States on October 22, 2020
This book is so similar too Such A Fun Age (although the writing is Behold The Dreamers is better). Both books feature a poor black character who works for a rich white families. In both novels the white people are generous and try to help the poor famines (they are not... See more
This book is so similar too Such A Fun Age (although the writing is Behold The Dreamers is better). Both books feature a poor black character who works for a rich white families. In both novels the white people are generous and try to help the poor famines (they are not “Karen’s” or racists) but in both books they are hated just for being white and wealthy (and not for their actions). There’s nothing positive about this book. It’s not inspirational. At best their best the characters are sad, at their worst they’re cruel.
4 people found this helpful
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Audrey HaylinsTop Contributor: Children''s Books
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Thought-provoking, timely and poignant
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 9, 2019
Rarely have I read a book that so poignantly captures an issue of the times. It skipped my radar when first published in 2016, but it seems to me that ‘Behold the Dreamers’ is possibly even more relevant today than it was three years ago. Jende Jonga has come to America...See more
Rarely have I read a book that so poignantly captures an issue of the times. It skipped my radar when first published in 2016, but it seems to me that ‘Behold the Dreamers’ is possibly even more relevant today than it was three years ago. 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. Thanks for reading my review. I hope you found it helpful. You can find more candid book reviews on my profile page.
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1st renassance
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The American Dream Reversed
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 12, 2020
Behold the Dreamers is written by Imbolo Mbue. Set in New York, the novel draws on the author’s Cameroonian and American experiences, depicting the lives of two families, associated through work, but whose fates become increasingly connected. The Jonga’s are a family of...See more
Behold the Dreamers is written by Imbolo Mbue. Set in New York, the novel draws on the author’s Cameroonian and American experiences, depicting the lives of two families, associated through work, but whose fates become increasingly connected. The Jonga’s are a family of first generation Cameroonian immigrants. They aspire to the American dream, believing that they too can make it there. In this respect, the novel is timely in its representation of undocumented communities striving for a better life and ultimately acceptance in the US. When chauffeur Jendi Jonga is dispensed of by Lehman’s Brothers executive Clark Edwards for reasons extraneous to the quality of his work, we see how Neni Jonga’s aspiration to live the dream leads her to blackmail Cindy Edwards. The monetisation of the social standing that Cindy has enjoyed precisely because of her family’s wealth, is an indictment of a Dream that values financial gain and can be seen as a reworking of the fate that befalls Miller’s Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. The novel is also one of power relations, white male over white female, white female over black male and black male over black female (as Jende, stripped of his power to provide for his family transforms from being a companion to his wife to demeaning and physically abusing her). But it is in the ironic reversal of power as black Neni triumphs over white Cindy in her quest to secure her financial interests, and later when the African Jonga’s eventually reject the US for Cameroon. Behold the Dreamers, also written in French has also been made into a film. I am looking forward to reading Mbue’s second novel How Beautiful We Are, due for release in 2021.
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Aliah1985
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Disappointing.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 1, 2018
It''s not a bad book, but I really do not understand the hype about it. I can''t help but feel it could have been so much better. Interesting idea, but poorly executed. I commend the writing, the language is really vibrant and interesting, there''s a lot of fascinating...See more
It''s not a bad book, but I really do not understand the hype about it. I can''t help but feel it could have been so much better. Interesting idea, but poorly executed. 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.
3 people found this helpful
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Rachel G.
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Mixed thoughts on this one
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 20, 2018
This was a 3.5 star for me, but I''m rounding up! 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...See more
This was a 3.5 star for me, but I''m rounding up! 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.
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Hampshire Julie
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Emotional read!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 20, 2017
This is a really inspiring read! It is so well written and very moving - it takes the reader through a whole mixture of emotions. Normally I would not have much time for someone who enters a country illegally, and lies about it, but I really identified with the main...See more
This is a really inspiring read! It is so well written and very moving - it takes the reader through a whole mixture of emotions. Normally I would not have much time for someone who enters a country illegally, and lies about it, but I really identified with the main character in this book and wanted him to succeed in America.
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