Review of Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

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4/5 stars

Behold the Dreamers is a story about a young Cameroonian family immigrating to New York City before the recession in 2008, trying to make their own way.

Jende Jonga arrives first and then sends for his wife Neni and son Liomi to join him about a year or so later.  He gets a job as a chauffeur for a high ranking executive at Lehman Brothers and that is where the story takes off.

The writing was very strong over all.  The story telling suits the title perfectly because it is dreamy and wistful.  I felt very strongly for Jende and Neni through their struggles and happy moments.  These characters felt real to me.  I didn’t always agree with what they said or did but it made them all the more alive to me – I could understand their motivations and really feel for them whenever life threw them a curveball.

My favourite character was Neni.  The page came to life for me every time the story switched to her perspective.  She was on one hand the good dutiful wife to Jende, but on the other, she was strong and independent-minded and ferocious when she needed to be.  I enjoyed reading about her interactions with all of the other characters.

The reason I didn’t give it a full 5 stars was because the Edwards didn’t really come alive for me.  As characters, they were okay but not very compelling.  I also took some points off because the story was predictable.  I almost knew what was going to happen next before it happened.

Even still, because the writing was so good and the characters were so vivid and interesting, I didn’t want to put this book down.  I was sad when it was over and honestly wanted to read another book about how the family is doing after the events in the ending.

This is one of the stronger debuts I’ve read in a long time and I am definitely looking forward to what this talented young author puts out next.

I received a copy of a DRC in exchange for an honest review.  I ended up listening to the first 25% on audiobook and then had to return that to the library so I read the rest of it on my e-reader care of netgalley.  I can say with all honesty that both copies were fantastic – the audiobook was incredibly enjoyable to listen to as was the reading experience.  I highly recommend both.

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