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

    ‘There’s an innovative focus to this warm-hearted and timely debut. Cleverly created by fielding more than once class of New York dreamer’ The Sunday Times

    ‘Mbue crafts a satire of unusual subtlety.’ Observer

    The cultural and racial observations are fresh, interesting and never laboured‘ Irish Times

    ‘There are a lot of spinning plates and Mbue balances them skilfully, keeping everything in motion. Even more impressive is the vitality that gleams through the film of gloom as the story becomes less about the Jonga family from day to day than about their efforts to make peace with their fate, whatever and wherever that might be’ Scotland on Sunday

    ‘A debut novel that illuminates the immigrant experience in America with the tender-hearted 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