Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Review: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

This was the second book I read for my new book club in Montclair, but sadly they had to move the meeting to another date when I was on the road and couldn't attend, so that's a bummer. But it will happen with my job. And I'm thrilled I was goaded into reading this terrific novel!

Set in 2007, Jende gets a job as a chauffeur for Clark who works at Lehman Brothers in Manhattan, to drive around him and his family. Jende's wife, Neni, and their son have just come over from Cameroon and Neni is attending college with the goal of becoming a pharmacist. With a cheap sublet apartment in the Bronx, things are going okay. However, most all of us know what is coming in 2008 and that Lehman Brothers is no more. So you read with this impending sense of doom hanging over each page as the time ticks down.

Life of course happens no matter what and you see Clark's unhappy wife, their older son who goes off to India to find himself, and their young boy named Mighty (I was never clear if that was a nickname or actually his name) who briefly befriends Jende's son. Neni becomes pregnant, and they see an immigration attorney who recommends a particular approach, and they think of the bright future.

But futures almost never turn out as we plan. No matter how diligent or how careful or hopeful we may be. This was an excellent portrayal of the life of an immigrant family, which is extra-important to read about now, I think. Combined with the economic downturn in the US, it showed how that affects people all up and down the strata. Trickle down economics never seems to work in a positive way, only negative.

I checked this book out of the library.

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