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Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Contemporary fiction

Behold the Dreamers

Debut
We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Imbolo Mbue, on your first book!

by Imbolo Mbue

Quick take

I fell in love with these characters, their friends and relatives... I still hear their voices in my head, still wonder what they're doing and if they're happy.

Why I love it

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Author

Perfectly situated during the financial crisis of 2008, Behold the Dreamers is a sublime exploration of our country's enduring and questionable promise: the American Dream. This dazzling debut revolves around two very different New York families in a familiar and inevitably fraught relationship: the wealthy privileged employer, and the aspiring immigrant employee. The beauty of the book resides in the voices of the latter.

The story is told from the viewpoint of the ebullient Jende Jonga, an immigrant from Cameroon, and his wife, Neni, who recently joined her husband in America with their young son. Their dream? A green card for Jende; a future in America. When Jende is hired as a chauffeur for a high-flying Lehman Brothers executive and his wife and two sons, it seems like the luckiest of breaks. But soon the two families will become entwined in ways that are both fruitful and destructive.

Once I started this book, I couldn't stop. I fell in love with Jende and Neni, their friends and relatives, their New York. I was deeply invested in their joy and sacrifice, determination and hope. I was bereft when I reached the last page because I didn't want to let go of their story. I still hear their voices in my head, still wonder what they're doing and if they're happy.

That Mbue manages to deftly turn critical issues like immigration, marital conflict and class disparity into a revelatory page-turner is a testament to her storytelling gifts, which are immense. Smart, funny, full-throated, Behold the Dreamers will get under your skin and cling to your heart in the way only the best books can. These characters will walk beside me for a very long time.

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Member thoughts

All (1353)
All (1353)
Love (657)
Like (617)
Dislike (79)
1398 ratings
  • 47% Love
  • 44% Like
  • 6% Dislike
  • BROOKLYN, NY

    This book is just WOW! The characters really felt like full complex lovable human beings, and they carry the story so well. The writing style is also nothing to scoff at. The best book I read in 2016.

  • Manassas, VA

    Engaging read on an immigrant narrative, diving into struggles, regarding race and class, but also the resilience and drive shown by the main characters. Family drama & questions of home kept me wrapt

  • FREEHOLD, NJ

    Multi-dimensional representation of immigrants and their hopes and struggles upon coming to America. This is an important and timely work that should be required reading for Americans. Beautiful story

  • Lake Orion, MI

    I found this book so relevant to the times we are living in currently. The perspectives of Jende and Neni were interesting - their perceptions of Americans, how they defined success, their goals, etc.

  • Seaside, CA

    A beautiful paean to the immigrant struggle in America- in this case, a family from Africa in NYC. The characters feel like real people struggling, succeeding, failing, despairing, and finding beauty.

  • Denver, CO

    This book makes us assess the value we apply to people and deal with a very present issue of immigration and citizenship in America. We have to continually assess our dreams to see if they are same.

  • Bozeman, MT

    A compassionate and compelling story about the universal search for a better life, filled with realistic characters making heartbreaking choices. I couldn't put it down. Can't believe it's a debut.

  • Steamboat Rock, IA

    In a time where the general public is against illegal immigration, it's good to read a story that brings the humanity back to the issue. I cheered them all the way through-even to their American end.

  • Hartford, CT

    What a thought-provoking look into the struggles of Cameroonian immigrants - made even more stark when juxtaposed against the the lives of the wealthy Clark family! Sad parts but satisfying overall.

  • Oak Park , IL

    The characters came to life and it gave me a much greater understanding of what it must feel like to move here from another country. Wish I could throw this book into the hands of lots of Americans.

  • Huntsville, AL

    This book was incredible. It unfolded so beautifully and deliberately that I was able to savor every moment. I was never able to predict what would happen next because the characters were so real.

  • Minneapolis, MN

    I loved this book! All of the characters had a story to tell and I loved the alternating perspectives. I felt very connected to them by the end of the book and I appreciate that it felt realistic.

  • Roanoke, VA

    This story made me really feel for people who come to this country for a better life. The characters pulled me in instantly and made me love them. I cried at the end because I was rooting for them.

  • Minneapolis, MN

    Books can either be a window or a mirror - this was a window. Fascinating to look into the lives of immigrants in America, they struggles they face to make ends meet, and the contrast in cultures.

  • Austin, TX

    What a sweet, real, raw story. I really really enjoyed getting to know the main character and his struggles as a refugee/immigrant in NYC. His wife was hilarious, but also very thought provoking.

  • Aurora, CO

    Love / hate relationship with the ending. Sometimes I really want to read more to escape than to Confront harsh realities. This is not an escape book. It's truthful, real, and harsh in places.

  • Watkinsville, GA

    I absolutely loved it. I cared about all of the characters, no matter how complex their relationships with one another became. Such a sad and simultaneously hopeful story. Definitely recommend.

  • Portland, OR

    Audio is virtuoistic. The story is a great slice of recent-history fiction in a time of great uncertainty in the American Dream/experiment of capitalism. I loved living with these characters.

  • Brentwood, NY

    I absolutely loved this book! This story brought tears to my eyes because I too am an Immigrant; and in every page I found myself in the same shoes as the Jonga Family. Beautifully written!!

  • Kansas City, MO

    Set during the 2008 financial crisis in the US, this novel follows a family of Cameroonian immigrants as they seek the American dream in New York. This book was gorgeous and richly imagined.

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