Title: Behold the Dreamers
Author: Imbolo Mbue
Pub Date: August 23, 2016
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Behold the Dreamers perfectly captures the sad truth that so many people need to fly they countries, their homes to find a better life or at least find a chance to get a decent life somewhere else. It also shows wishful naiveté of people believing that in a wealthy country that they know from TV their life is granted to be better. Escaping is just the first step.
I enjoy books with an immigration theme and Behold the Dreamers a great book about immigrants. In the days before the collapse of Lehmann Brothers illegal immigrant from Cameroon – Jende Jonga gets a job as a chauffeur for a Wall Street man Clark Edwards. Jende is fighting cruel American immigration system trying to get a green card; his lawyer advised him to petition for asylum. Jende believes that America is the place for him to become somebody and for his family to have a good life, surely better than the one they could have in Africa. His wife Neni believes in America even more. Jende after working hard in NYC saved enough money to bring his wife and his child to the States. Now they live in Harlem. She is studying hoping to become a pharmacist; their kid is in the Sates on his way to becoming a respectable American man and Jeden just got a well-paid job as a private driver. Their life seems to be going in a good and stable direction. But it is 2008 and as we know, in that year a great economic crisis destroyed lives of many honest and hardworking people. And it is harder for the Jongas when they don’t have papers to stay and work in America legally. Because of Jende work as a driver and Neni summer job for Mrs. Edwards they learn their secrets that have a great power of destroying Edwards family life. Some secrets are used against Jongas, and some are used against Edwards.
The story shows how economic crisis hits the poorest, but also leaves a mark on the rich ones. Jende works for a man from Lehmann Brothers, and he can see his stress and anxiety growing in the midst of the collapse. Through eyes of Jeden and his wife, we can witness the life of Clark and his family – the wife and two sons. And we are tempted to compare sufferings of those two families – the wealthy family and low-income family. We have a better outlook on a private life of Jonga family, but we also have an idea of what is happening in Edwards family. Neni is the characters that is the comparing voice in the story – maybe not always exactly uttering comparisons, but she is the one that labels people’s sufferings, that is dismissing someone’s issues just because their basic life needs are catered in a better way than hers. I had a problem with Neni. I found her very unlikable, and I couldn’t relate to her at any level. She was gossiping, judging, and she was very naive. Naive to the point where her actions are plain senseless. She comes to a point where I was so angry with her I wanted to scream. That speaks excellent for a book in general when it just moves you so strongly!
I highly recommend this book, it is amazing and Imbolo Mbue written a fascinating story in a beautiful voice. The characters are rich and well crafted. They are flawed and some of their actions were just inexcusable for me. The story moved me,put a smile on my face and annoyed me so much. A serious food for thought.
The post was spell checked using Grammarly. Thanks to it I avoided publishing a post with 36 critical issues, and 26 advanced grammar issues.