Skip to main content

Behold the Dreamers Bets On...

Behold the Dreamers

August 2016

I had the pleasure of hearing Imbolo Mbue present her debut novel, BEHOLD THE DREAMERS, a few months ago. Two minutes into her presentation, I found myself racing to get a copy of the book. She drew me in from the first page; I barely looked up as I read.

It’s the story of Jende and Neni Jonga, a young Cameroonian couple living in Harlem who are making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy. Jende wants his six-year-old son to have the best of what America has to offer --- an education and opportunity. But Jende lacks the papers to get a legal job. In the fall of 2007, luck comes his way as he takes a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, who works on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers in an executive spot. He gets to know Clark, his wife Cindy and his family as he drives them around town each day.

Soon Neni also is a part of the Edwards world, working for them in their Hamptons home. The Jongas are living the high life, waiting for Jende’s paperwork and planning a future where they will live the American Dream. And then it all falls apart as Lehman’s shaky façade fractures and ultimately crumbles. The Jongas go into a freefall with their marriage in jeopardy as they wonder what to do. Should they risk staying in New York or elsewhere in the States, or retreat to Cameroon? As they weigh their options, you as a reader will be along for their ride. From one page to the next, you will not be sure how they will react.

Imbolo was inspired to write this book as she watched the financial crisis of 2008 upend so many lives. While the focus then was on the money guys on The Street, she could not get those who made their livings from being part of this world in various service roles out of her head. What happened to them? She nails both worlds incredibly well.

Imbolo’s writing is beautiful, and she does not shy away from bringing readers into uncomfortable places in the story. She challenges us to think about tough issues, family, wealth, power and the balance of life in America today. Truly you will not be able to stop reading it once you start. And then you, too, will want to talk about it!

Behold the Dreamers
by Imbolo Mbue

  • Publication Date: June 26, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0525509712
  • ISBN-13: 9780525509714