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Summary

A powerful and timely story of marriage, class, race and the pursuit of the American dream.

Behold the Dreamers is a dazzling debut novel about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - and of what we're prepared to sacrifice to hold on to each of them.

'We all do what we gotta do to become American, Abi.'

New York, 2007: a city of dreamers and strivers, where the newly arrived and the long established jostle alike for a place on the ladder of success. And Jende Jonga, who has come from Cameroon, has just set his foot on the first rung. Clark Edwards is a senior partner at Lehman Brothers bank. In need of a discrete and reliable chauffeur, he is too preoccupied to closely check the paperwork of his latest employee.

Jende's new job draws him; his wife, Neni; and their young son into the privileged orbit of the city's financial elite. And when Clark's wife, Cindy, offers Neni work and takes her into her confidence, the couple begin to believe that the land of opportunity might finally be opening up for them. But there are troubling cracks in their employers' facades, and when the deep fault lines running beneath the financial world are exposed, the Edwards' secrets threaten to spill out into the Jongas' lives.

Faced with the loss of all they have worked for, each couple must decide how far they will go in pursuit of their dreams - and what they are prepared to sacrifice along the way.

©2016 Imbolo Mbue (P)2016 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"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)
"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." ( The New York Times Book Review)
"Warm and captivating." ( People)
"A heartfelt rumination on immigration, race, class, marriage, and hope." ( Buzzfeed)
"Imbolo Mbue's masterful debut about an immigrant family struggling to obtain the elusive American Dream in Harlem will have you feeling for each character from the moment you crack it open." ( In Style)
" 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)
"Reminiscent of Jonathan Franzen and Joyce Carol Oates...a finely nuanced examination of the American Dream." ( Sydney Morning Herald)

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What listeners say about Behold the Dreamers

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    5 out of 5 stars
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The Dreamers see the American Dream & Nightmare

Jende and Neni are beautifully and painstakingly rendered in this novel. Their arrival in Harlem from Limbe, Cameroon (where the author is from) is driven by a pure need for escape and hunger for a future. As if their lives are not already full of struggle, they are caught out in an unexpected way by the fall of Lehman Brothers. They try to react to everything that's been thrown at them in an honest and honorable way. But Neni starts to think about making immoral and unethical choices in order to remain in the US. It's a fascinating read to see her calculus of decision making. Jende and Neni can see the American dream and nightmare all captured in one frame. Despite that, they would like to stay. This is a heartbreaking read.

3 people found this helpful

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Viscerally beautiful

This book is of superb quality. I felt every emotion with every character. It's so real and interesting in the process of hoping for a better life in another country. I was moved by the whole book. The narrator is excellent. The author captures so much in this wonderful literary work.

Behold the Dreamers is viscerally beautiful.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

This is the equivalent of a five star hotel, where everything is of the highest quality. The story is captivating, the characters believable, and the narrator has made this my most enjoyable listen. I came to it through reading a review of the book in the Sunday Times Culture section. Just out of curiosity I looked to see if it had been released on Audible, and am glad that I did. Superb.

1 person found this helpful

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Taken By Surprise !!

This book sneaks up on you. You don’t realise the moment you are invested. The main theme of this book was loyalty.

Jende is my RUBIX cube I still do not know how to figure him out or how I feel about him. He did right, he did wrong. Maybe Mbue wanted him to be human and relatable and if so job done!

Neni caught me off guard. She is the definition of desperate and that reflected in her virtues.

Clarke was the character that surprised me the most. His character developed so much during the course of the book and the enlightening moments were heartwarming.

Cindy - well the least said the better.

Vince made me smile and reminded me to be brave and tackle anything that comes your way.

Listening to this book aided the experience. The narration was easy to listen to and the change in voices helped keep track of the various characters.

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It’s not a dream it’s a plan.


Firstly Prentice Onayem has the most beautiful voice, full of life and expression.....even the phone directory would sound interesting with his narration.

Great book on the lives of a Cameroon family living in New York, finding their way,adapting their ways whilst learning the customs of the city, all as black illegal immigrants.

They are a hardworking proud family and soon things start to look up when Jende gets a job as a chauffeur for an executive at Lehman bothers pre crash.... as you can imaging the story unfolds with this as a bs k drop.

No spoilers, it’s a wonderful story full of the light and dark of family life for an affluent all American family and a black Cameroonian family.

Highly recommend.

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Dreams of America

Really good character building.
The story of shared and conflicting dreams of New York. Enjoyable and it feels like there's a part coming soon

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LOVED IT!

Entertaining read but also beautifully captures the plight of economic immigrants and asylum seekers to western countries.

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A good story, excellently read.

The voice, the accents, the music bring this story of African life in New York to life.

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Touching & compelling novel wonderfully read!

I loved this novel - you really get to know and love the characters well, and root for them throughout. Very poignant and relevant for today, even though it's set in '08. I can't say enough about Prentice Onayem either, his delivery and voices were so natural and beautifully done. Both narrator and writer are great talents.

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Excellent

Great characters brought to life by really excellent narration. The story is really absorbing and I couldn't stop listening, finished in two days!

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  • Sylvia Ngenga
  • 13-09-20

Relatable Read

Loved It! It told a story many never hear about and one that many experience

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 26-08-19

Great Listen

I finished this book in just two days. It's a great story and the narrator really brings it to life. It was written over 10 years ago but it seems as though the author knew what would be coming! Really glad I listened!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mueni Masambia
  • 29-06-19

Loved it

Having lived as an immigrant in the US, I could totaly relate to this book. It brings out the struggle and frustration quiet clearly. Its well written and captivating. Kept me hooked to the end