Behold the Dreamers (Oprah's Book Club) - Imbolo Mbue

Behold the Dreamers (Oprah's Book Club)

Artist Imbolo Mbue

  • Release Date: 2016-08-23
  • Genre: Literary
Score: 4
From 350 Ratings


A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy

New York Times Bestseller • Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award • Longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award • An ALA Notable Book

NPR • The New York Times Book Review • San Francisco Chronicle • The Guardian • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Chicago Public Library • BookPage • Refinery29 • Kirkus Reviews 

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.

Praise for Behold the Dreamers

“A debut novel by a young woman from Cameroon that illuminates the immigrant experience in America with the tenderhearted wisdom so lacking in our political discourse . . . Mbue is a bright and captivating storyteller.”The Washington Post

“A capacious, big-hearted novel.”The New York Times Book Review

“Behold the Dreamers’ heart . . . belongs to the struggles and small triumphs of the Jongas, which Mbue traces in clean, quick-moving paragraphs.”Entertainment Weekly

“Mbue’s writing is warm and captivating.”People (book of the week)

“[Mbue’s] book isn’t the first work of fiction to grapple with the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, but it’s surely one of the best. . . . It’s a novel that depicts a country both blessed and doomed, on top of the world, but always at risk of losing its balance. It is, in other words, quintessentially American.”—NPR

“This story is one that needs to be told.”Bust 

Behold the Dreamers challenges us all to consider what it takes to make us genuinely content, and how long is too long to live with our dreams deferred.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“[A] beautiful, empathetic novel.”The Boston Globe

“A witty, compassionate, swiftly paced novel that takes on race, immigration, family and the dangers of capitalist excess.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Mbue [is] a deft, often lyrical observer. . . . [Her] meticulous storytelling announces a writer in command of her gifts.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune


  • Excellent Story

    By princesst30
    This novel gives a very nuanced and interesting look at the life of Africa immigrants seeking what they see as the life changing green card. Seeing America through the eyes of immigrants was possible because Mbue's use of imagery gave the characters so much depth. I really enjoyed the subtle tension among the characters and the way she showed how we are truly interconnected through our experiences as humans
  • I dream

    By eeeconomist
    It's an awesome book. I literally read this in two bursts. Story is quite gripping and almost insists That you try and understand the characters although it never really allows you to. Most importantly it's not a fairytale story with everything broken fixed at the end or with perfect heroes. I wish Mbolo well in her career as a writer and would be looking forward to her next book. NB: should be a 5 star, just docked one star for too many mentions of fried ripe plantain... Surely there must be other meals in Cameroon.
  • Disappointing

    By Bwtex
    Depressing and not enough story line to keep me interested.
  • Behold the Dreamers

    By Annie Christie
    I enjoyed this book. Although not perfect it was a good insight into another culture and the immigration process for green cards and visas. Showed how different people and cultures deal with stress and family dysfunction. The ending was not unexpected, disappointing or sad. Characters could have been better developed. But good first novel.
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