Belinda’s Book Nook Review: Behold the Dreamer by Imbolo Mbue


Title: Behold the Dreamers
Author: Imbolo Mbue
Copyright: August 23, 2016
Genre: fiction
Format: e-book and audiobook Pages: 380

I can’t remember where I heard about this book but I did and as soon as I heard the description I knew I had to read it because it sounded very interesting. As you know, I also review books for publishers and this book came up on the list a while back so I put my name down to see if I could get a copy for review. Time went by and it didn’t come right away so I put my name on hold for the audiobook version from my library as soon as it was released. The audiobook became available first so I started listening to the book. I had forgotten about my request to the publisher and completed the audio version.  Sure enough a few days after I completed the audiobook, the publisher released the ebook to me.

With this current election and the issue of immigrants and immigration under fire it only seems fitting to pick up more books on the experience of immigrants. Just as I believe strongly that it’s important to read about slavery in all the different slave stories I feel this too is important. Sometimes I hear people say oh I’ve read about slavery and I just don’t want to read another slavery book. But my thoughts on that, is that every story is important and every story has it’s own unique perspective. Each story can touch the reader in a different way if given the opportunity. So when I heard about this book I knew I wanted to read it. I had not read anything from the perspective of a Cameroonian before and thought it would give me new insights.

Quick Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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…

My Thoughts:

The book is about Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant that has come to live in Harlem with his wife Neni and their six-year-old son. The time is the fall of 2007 and Jende gets a job working as a chauffeur for a gentleman named Clark Edwards was an executive at a company called Lehman Brothers.


Let me tell you something, this audiobook was such a treat to experience. The voice talent was Prentice Onayemi and he was amazing and I couldn’t believe how he could do all the characters. The audio version took the story experience to another level as I was able to really experience it with nuances I might not have inflected when I read the story myself.


Now let me tell you what I think about the story. I really liked Jende and his wife Neni. Jende had all the best intentions for his family when he came to America.  He believed all of the things that he heard regarding all of the opportunities that would present themselves to he and his family upon arriving in America. But he soon found out that this was not necessarily the case. Living in New York was very challenging especially when you’re an immigrant. Trying to locate a job was both challenging and degrading at times so he took many until he was able to secure the job as a chauffeur for this very wealthy business executive (Mr. Clark). The resources just weren’t in place to not only guide these new immigrants but even if they were, I don’t think they would as effective unless they read books like this that really get into the thoughts and fears of an immigrant.

The book allows you to see the contrast in the lives between Jende’s family and Mr. Clark’s family. Jende and his wife lived in a very rundown apartment trying to make ends meet. Neni was taking classes to pursue her dream of a pharmaceutical degree. You witnessed the triumphs and obstacles that she faced as an immigrant that lacked the resources that could support her endeavors as a student in this country.  At times I wished I could jump into the story and help them. But you still witnessed this amazing family dynamic between Jende , Neni and their son as they hung on to their cultural beliefs.  You also saw the influence America was having on Neni’s desires and expectations. Mr. Clark had two boys one was 18 and he was heading to India to go find himself and the other son was young but both very privileged. Money was not an object. His wife though not from money tried to adapt to the lifestyle and her issues were also examined in the story.

I kept wondering where the programs were that can truly help immigrants integrate into America while still bringing with them the richness of their own cultures. It felt as though they felt that they have to choose one or the other. I definitely felt some similarities to Jende and then Neni’s experience as a black person in America. So these ideas truly resonated with me.

I enjoyed all the characters in this book. I would find myself wanting to pick the book up again to find out what is going on with each person and how their lives might change. There were many issues explored throughout this book so I think that it provides a great opportunity for readers to reflect and think about the experience of an immigrant in more depth. I enjoyed the audiobook immensely. I highly recommend this book be added to your bookshelves because the more we engage with material like this the more compassion we feel and then we can position ourselves as citizens of this country to help.

Great books stay with you after the last page and this one has definitely done that for me.Read it!

I give this book 5 butterflies!


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