Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (3 Stars)

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The dreamers are Jende and Neni Jonga, a young couple from Cameroon trying to make it in New York.  They have dreams for themselves, but mostly for their children.  They are hardworking and optimistic, but just when they think they are getting a big break, the recession hits.

This debut novel is well-written, and just flows.  This is a book of hope, dreams and, in the end, sadness.  You feel a connection to the characters and want so much for them to succeed.  As Jende is interviewing for a well-paying job as a private chauffeur, you feel for him as he sweats through his shirt.  You feel Neni’s discomfort as she looks around and realizes she doesn’t fit in at a party, and root for her when she quite firmly tells a college dean that she will become a pharmacist.  By the same token, you feel empathy also for Jende’s employer and his wife.  You feel the weight of the world on Clark Edwards’ shoulders as Lehman Brothers comes crashing down, and feel Cindy Edwards’ pain as her marriage unravels.  There are many facets to both couples, and the author skillfully paints a full picture of both couples.

While the writing and character development are excellent, I expected more from the story.  The end certainly let me down.  Realistic it may be, but I was so hoping for something much different.

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