Title: Behold the Dreamers
Author: Imbolo Mbue
Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant, has lived in New York for a few years when his wife Neni and their son join him in the states. Jende has just received a good paying job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive. Neni is attending school with the dream of becoming a pharmacist. As the lives of the Jonga and Edwards families become more complicated – with Jende’s quest for American citizenship and an economic crisis breaking out – secrets are unearthed and relationships start to crumble. Important choices have to be made that will change the direction of the families’ lives forever.
This book had so much media hype when it came out and has received so much praise that I was expecting to be emotionally invested and begging for a follow up after I read it. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I really wanted to love it; truly, I did.
As far as being a debut novel, the writing was good. I appreciated the dialogue and the author’s use of regional dialect. It’s great to see that representation in a popular novel. Mbue’s representation of how immigrant and American cultures collide is done well in my opinion.
Where I struggled with this novel was the flow of the story and the characters. For me it felt like I was just trudging along through their lives just waiting for the end of the story. Disclaimer: I’ve never been a fan of books that heavily focus on family drama and going through someone’s life. I much prefer action and fantasy type books, but I branch out like this because sometimes a gem will catch my eye.
While I felt for the plight of the Jongas and the unfairness of the immigration system, I didn’t fall in love with any of the characters. In fact by the end I quite disliked two of the main characters. Their choices and personalities veered off in a direction that didn’t seem fitting to their characters. I understand the point Mbue was trying to make by having them make rash, outrageous decisions, but it didn’t jive with me. It felt too forced and unnatural.
So, no I don’t think this book was worth the hype. The ending felt rushed and unnatural, and the characters lacked a true appeal for me.
That being said I’m making more of an effort this year to read books by more diverse authors. So, if anyone has suggestions please drop them in the comments!