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Publisher: Thorndike Press Large Print$30.99Behold the Dreamers (Audio Compact Disc - Unabridged)
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group$45.00
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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. 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
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-06-13
- Reviewer: Staff
From Cameroonian Mbue comes a debut novel about two immigrants struggling to find their footing in a new world. When Jende Jonga journeys to New York City from Cameroon in 2004 on a visitors’ visa in hopes of obtaining a green card, he’s sure his life will only improve. After saving up enough money to bring over Jende’s wife, Neni, and six-year-old son, the family moves into an apartment in Harlem. Then Jende hits the jackpot in 2007 when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a wealthy Lehman Brothers executive. But working for the Edwardses isn’t as cushy and above board as Jende expected. Clark’s long hours at the office and frequent late-night “appointments” at the Chelsea Hotel raise red flags with his wife, Cindy. When Neni agrees to accompany the Edwards family to Southampton as a temporary nanny for their youngest son, she learns far more than she bargained for about Cindy’s fragile mental state. Before long, the pressure of keeping what they know about Clark and Cindy—and the threat of deportation—becomes too much for the Jongas to bear, threatening the stability of their marriage and their ability to remain in a country they still can’t call home. Mbue’s reliance on overheard phone conversations to forward the plot makes for choppy reading, and the tenor of the Edwardses’ rich-people problems is nothing new. But the Jongas are much more 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. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Aug.)
Life in a new land
In today’s tense political climate, with immigration in the news almost daily, it is especially welcome to discover Behold the Dreamers, the clear-eyed, thought-provoking debut novel by Imbolo Mbue. No matter your politics, this beautiful novel about an African family starting a new life in a new land offers tremendous insight into people who still come to our shores in search of the American dream.
In the fall of 2007, Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, can hardly believe his luck when he gets a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, an executive at Lehman Brothers. With this opportunity, Jende can better provide for his wife, Neni, and their growing family. When Clark’s fragile wife, Cindy, offers Neni temporary work at their summer house in the Hamptons, the Jongas feel that finally, everything is going their way. The Jongas begin to make plans for their future, applying for permanent residency and saving for their own home in Yonkers and pharmaceutical college for Neni.
But not even a year later, the housing bubble bursts and Lehman Brothers collapses. The Edwards marriage unravels further. Jende spends more and more of his time driving Clark to after-hours “assignations” in nearby hotels. Before long, the pressure of keeping secrets for Clark and Cindy threatens not only the Jongas’ marriage but their dreams of a future in a country they still can’t legally call home.
Mbue herself came to the United States from Limbe, Cameroon, the same town that the Jongas hail from. Behold the Dreamers is her first foray into fiction, which shows in the occasionally choppy plot, as well as the depiction of a wealthy Manhattan couple with problems straight from central casting. But Mbue’s perceptive exploration of the plight of African immigrants, especially in the character of Neni, is fresh and vivid. The book’s unexpected ending provides a welcome dose of realism, making this an utterly unique novel about immigration, race and class—and an important one, as well.
RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Imbolo Mbue.