Monday 16 April 2018

Mbue, Imbolo "Behold the Dreamers"

Mbue, Imbolo "Behold the Dreamers" - 2016

Not as much a book about Cameroon but about immigrants in the States. There is some part that tells about Cameroon but the majority of the "action" takes place in New York City.

It is interesting to see the comparison with an immigrant family who had nothing back home and a US American who has everything and then everything falls to pieces as he loses his job, i.e. his company goes bankrupt. How they deal with the problems they are faced with.

This would be a great book club book. Does really everyone want to come to America? Are women treated that much differently in the two cultures? What about the children? Yes, great topics to discuss.

The characters were described very well, you got to like some of them a lot, others not so much. I don't think anyone is surprised to find that I preferred the Africans but I wonder how any of them would behave had they been born into the other culture …

This was a debut novel but I hope Imbole Mbue will write more.

From the back cover:
"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’ façades.

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."


  1. I thought this was a great story. I read it for a reading group and as you say, it made for good discussion. I too preferred the Africans. Here is my review:

    1. I don't think I so your review about this (will head over right away) but now I am not sure whether I found it through you or in another way. I thought I just came across it in my localbook shop but I can't be sure.

      It's easy to prefer the Africans, they are content with any little thing, happy they are doing better than before whereas the Americans (and I believe most Europeans would be the same) take everything for granted and are disappointed when they find out that's not the case.

      I would love to read a book about Cameroon now. Will have to explore ....