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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

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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.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Immigration

    Immigration

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Nyc

    NYC

Why I love it

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 ratings (2,016)

  • Jessica G.

    Pikesville, MD

    I don’t know why I waited so long to read this book, after years of it being recommended to me. What a beautiful heart-gripping story of the immigrant experience, a story told differently than often.

  • Paul M.

    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.

  • Adriana W.

    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.

  • Krista H.

    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

  • Madelyn K.

    Asheville, NC

    The audiobook narrator does an excellent cast of voices that bring a very authentic feel to this story about two families striving to live the American dream in NYC after the 2008 recession. Loved it!

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