Behold the Dreamers (Oprah's Book Club)
This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.
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
From Publishers Weekly
© Publishers Weekly
Grateful I Got to Experience This Book
Where to start? First, I had no idea it would reach out and grab me the way that it did, or how it would affect me just after I read Liomi’s last word. I am embarking on a similar journey feeling much the same way that Neni felt. Her dreams of a better life were my dreams of a better life. Her dreams of a life where her children would grow up with vibrant, exciting and adventurous surroundings were my dreams as well when I came to NYC 14 years ago. I felt her pain.
After I got into the story and got fully invested in all of the characters, I found myself relating to each of them in very different ways. I saw myself in many of them, but in the end, feel like I could most relate to both Neni and Vince (for very different reasons). Jende is a good man, but I don’t know if sadness and fear could ever take me to the places it took him. Having not been there I don’t know for sure, but he really lost his way towards the end and I had a very hard time with that. In the end, I know his heart was good though.
I found myself at times laughing out loud, especially at the conversations between Fatou, Betty & Neni. I could just hear their voices in my head and it made me laugh. There were obviously several other characters I related to like the professor, and in some ways, even Clark. Mbue did such an amazing job of using her pen and paper as a canvas to draw such vivid images in my head for each of these characters. I felt like I knew them, each of them. Vince’s desire to “find himself and his truth,”, Mrs. Edward’s denial of her addiction, even Leah’s optimism in the face of daily struggle. I could “see” each of them in my mind.
At any rate, I was touched by this story and I feel confident it will open every reader’s hearts and minds to the world around us, if we just open our eyes long enough to see it. Thank you Imbolo Mbue for getting this story out into the world. I am forever grateful I got to experience it.
Waste of Time and Money
This book starts out great for the first half, but then it totally falls apart. It gets boring and starts to meander, culminating into a very disappointing ending. It also is frustrating to see how badly African women are treated and the fact they still put up with mental, verbal and physical abuse from their husbands, even when they are in America. I won't go into further detail, as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who wants to waste their money and buy the book. There are too many good books out there to spend time on this one.
Behold the Dreamers
A lovely book with a very unexpected ending. It depicts real relationships, real human struggles in a way that makes the reader feel deeply connected to the characters and their issues. It didn't sugar-coat or falsely resolve the difficult issues surrounding immigration, domestic abuse, financial challenges, women's rights or addiction. And although it addresses all those issues, it does so through storytelling of real lives and real human dilemmas. I loved these people. A very satisfying read.