11 August 2016

Review #502: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"The American dream means that you have the chance to work hard, get an education and do great things for yourself, for your kids. The great thing in American is it doesn't matter what your last name is, doesn't matter if you're wealthy."

----Bobby Jindal

Imbolo Mbue, a Cameroonian author, pens an incredibly inspiring debut novel, Behold the Dreamers that unfolds the stories of two families set against the backdrop of the Big Apple, one is a very poor yet hardworking immigrant family from a very small town in Africa and another is an American family who are filthy rich, as the two families come together with their growing fondness for one another, and so the inevitable curse of the Great Recession that tears each and every one from both the families apart.


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 BuzzFeed’s “Incredible New Books You Need to Read This Summer”

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’ facades.

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.

Jende and Neni, the young immigrant couple from Cameroon with a child, have finally managed to make a decent life in America, as Neni attends the graduate school to be eligible for a scholarship that will earn her a spot in some college to achieve her dream of becoming a pharmacist whereas Jende has bagged a decent paying as well as respectable job of a chauffeur for a filthy rich and wall street company's boss, Edward.

Edward and Cindy, the middle aged American couple with two sons, have a posh lifestyle and a respectable reputation in the society, as Edward is the boss of Lehman Brothers, a Wall Street company whereas Cindy is the model American housewife with social parties and holidays in Hamptons keep her busy.

But what happens to these families when the Great Recession strikes the doors of each and every Wall Street companies including Lehman Brothers and wipes off the rise of the American economy like a clean slate?

While reading this book, every now and while, I had to stop myself and was forced to ponder when whether I'm reading a debut author's work, as it turned out to be miraculous and something magical, within an instant, I got a new perspective into the universe that the author has diligently created with the help of her story. Even though this is a work of fiction, I had a hard time in believing that this story ain't real. So kudos to the author for her spirit to write such a heart-touching and realistic novel that will inspire those who dream the Great American Dream to make it big in America. And here is the author who has captured the soul of a hard working man who wants to earn a green card with dignity and respect, and not illegally or in any shortcut method.

The author's writing style is excellent and eloquent, laced properly with emotions that will make the readers feel deeply. The plot is so addictive that it will instantly suck in the readers right from its very start and will hold their attention till the very last page. The narrative is sensitive, emphatic and often inspired from the local Cameroonian dialect with its proper translation into English, hence the readers are in for a treat as they would get to know a lesser known language and would also be able to comprehend with the honest and real dialogues. The pacing of the book is smooth like a calm river as the author unravels the story gradually through challenges and twists.

The characters from the book are extremely well developed and are developed out of realism that will help the readers feel connected to the characters. The main character, Jende, is amazing, motivating, dedicated and extremely caring family man, who thinks about his family before anything and everything else. Neni is the woman who is so much deluded by achieving a decent and glamorous American life style and she gets so much wrapped up in this great dream, that she forgets about her family and her birthplace often. Edward is the gentleman and a typical American who lives the luxurious lifestyle even if he sometimes has to excuse himself in the indecent frivolities of life. Cindy maybe a beautiful American housewife, but she is a sad and broken woman from the inside as she indulges herself into the ugly shortcuts of life.

The author flawless evolves each and every characters through the inevitable challenge of the Great Recession as she throws them into the mouth of a dark age with no jobs and falling economy and overextended visa situations. The characters are, in short, quite memorable as well as enlightening to send the readers a strong message of the importance of homeland and earning respect through clean ways.

In a nutshell, this is a motivating and extremely gripping story that won't let the readers to look away from the book even for once, and would help them realize the beauty, importance and meaning of earning respect in one's own society or country.

Verdict: One of the best books that I read this year!

Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers from Harper Collins India for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book. 

Author Info:
Imbolo Mbue is a native of Limbe, Cameroon. She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for over a decade, she lives in New York City. BEHOLD THE DREAMERS is her first novel.
Visit her here 

Book Purchase Links:

1 comment:

Thanks for your feedback!