Behold the Dreamers

Imbolo Mbue

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 their 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’ facades.

Then the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Desperate to keep Jende’s job, which grows more tenuous by the day, the Jongas try to protect the Edwardses from certain truths, even as their own marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

Reviews of Behold the Dreamers

  • ‘There are no heroes in this marvellous debut, only nuanced human beings. A classic tale with a surprise ending, as deeply insightful as it is delightfully entertaining’ Taiye Selasi

    ‘Imbolo Mbue would be a formidable storyteller anywhere, in any language. It’s our good luck that she and her stories are American’ Jonathan Franzen

    ‘Eerily timely … bittersweet and buoyant’ Jessie Burton, Observer Books of the Year

    ‘As a dissection of the American Dream, Imbolo Mbue’s first novel is savage and compassionate in all the right places’ New York Times

    ‘A fresh, engaging entry into the eternally evolving narrative of what it means to be an American – and how human beings, not laws or dogma, define liberty’ Entertainment Weekly

    ‘Even as Behold the Dreamers takes some dark, vicious turns, it never feels cheaply cynical, grounded as it is in the well-imagined characters who try, through whatever means possible, to protect their families and better their lives’ USA Today

    ‘In Imbolo Mbue’s sprightly debut . . . songs of innocence and arrogance collide’ Vogue

    ‘Realistic, tragic, and still remarkably kind to all its characters, this is a special book’ Kirkus, Starred Review

    ‘A debut novel that illuminates the immigrant experience in America with the tenderhearted wisdom so lacking in our political discourse . . . Mbue is a bright and captivating storyteller’ Washington Post

    ‘Mbue writes with great confidence and warmth . . . A capacious, big-hearted novel’ New York Times Book Review