Page count: 400pp
Author: Imbolo Imbue
Publisher: Random House
- A CIRCLE OF PACE AND NEAR-PERFECTION…
The pace in Imbolo Mbue’s debut is mind-blowing. In my many years of reading, I have read only a handful of books that are as deeply affecting and fast paced with a beautifully designated suspense as this novel. Behold The Dreamers grabs your attention from the first page down to the last. It is deeply engrossing.
Behold The Dreamers centers on the tale of a family of three living in New York: Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant comes to the United States to provide a better life for himself and his family.
Behold The Dreamers starts with Jende going for an interview and at the end of the interview, a new fate is set for his family, a new beginning too; a fate that involves two families with different class, with different nationality. Each family aims and hopes for life in the form that is gratifying but life often unravels in all of its complexities.
Behold The Dreamers portrays the quotidian lows and highs of two families that live in a country that is struggling with recession. To wake up each day to face these changes redefine life, enduring through its time and accepting each day “with its promises and heartbreaks” is living. This novel is truly spectacular for many things: It is unique. It shows the many pictures of dreams. The American dream. The Dreamers’ dream. Class expectation, frustration, depression and stiffled joy.
Imbolo as a gifted storyteller understands the complexities of happiness and unhappiness with a dextrous virtuosity. The beauty of this novel is in its well calculated plot and the question that comes to you often as you read through is: Why is the thread of dream, hope and life’s expectation so fickle?
- CONCIOUS BODY OF HUMANITIES AND RECESSION..
For the two families in this novel, the Edwardses and the Jendes, everything seem consistently fine and well handled, perhaps sloppy and inconsistent at some point but still in place until Lehman fell, Clark lost his job and everything begin to fall apart “It happened in the middle of September around the time when the night air begins to ruthlessly wipe out memories of summer and once-happy chimes of ice cream trucks begin to sound like elegies.” And nothing ever remains the same.
The country begins to experience economic crisis and Jende describes how bad things are becoming and reasons also on the state of affairs, “He thought about the state of the city and the state of the country. He thought about how strange and sad and scary it was that Americans were talking about an ‘economic crisis,’ a phrase Cameroonians heard on the radio and TV virtually every day in the late eighties, when the country entered a prolonged financial downturn. Few people in Limbe understood the origin of the slump, or what the government was doing to get the country out of it and prevent a recurrence, but everyone knew that it made buying food and other necessities beyond difficult, thanks to the evaporation of large amounts of money.” Although Jende still keeps his job in these trying times, he dreads the possibility of losing his job and laments: “Now it was happening in America. And it was bad. Very bad. No one could tell how long it would take before this avoidable pandemonium that Lehman’s fall had caused would end. It could take years, the experts on TV said. Maybe up to five years, some said, especially now that the crisis was spreading around the world and people were losing secure jobs, losing life’s savings, losing families, losing sanities.”
And dreams too, many dreams, all through the land people are weeping, “all through the land, willows would weep for the end of many dreams.” including the Jendes.
- ANOTHER BEGINNING AT THE END…
In the end, the Jendes as the dreamers will have to count their losses and opportunities, leaving America is a huge loss of many opportunities which they won’t get in Cameroon. Neni is concerned for her children, “they would be deprived of freedoms, rights, and privileges that Cameroon could not give its children.” Returning is never an option they fancy so much even if there is promise of a better life back home. “In Limbe, Liomi and Timba would have many things they would not have had in America, but they would lose far too many things. They would lose the opportunity to grow up in a magnificent land of uninhibited dreamers. They would lose the chance to be awed and inspired by amazing things happening in the country, incredible inventions and accomplishments by men and women who look like them.” In the end, the readers will be looking at dream and the dreamers evolving in a way that life often unravels; a promising future beckons. In the end, a comfortable reality is all there is.
There is just a lot to laugh about and cry about in this book. There is so much to know about these two families that are in many ways like us or someone we know or used to know. Imbolo Mbue touches every aspect of human needs, dreams of things that are never as we imagined or want them to be and the many stories of class, immigrants, marriage, happiness and sadness. Few books can claim such an impressive strong characters like that of Jende, Neni, Bubakar, Cindy, Edward, Mighty and Winston. A truly magnificent novel.
Bio: When Basit Jamiu is not writing or surfing the net, he is reading J. M. Coetzee, V. S. Naipaul, Toni Morrison, Naguib Mahfouz and other greats too numerous to mention. He likes to eat, a fact you will find so hard to believe particularly if you are meeting him for the first time. He is @IamBasitt on twitter.