In 2008, the investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for the largest bankruptcy in American history. It took just hours for the catastrophic effects of the company’s failure to become apparent to ordinary people all across the world.
Jende Jonga and his wife, Neni two of the main characters have recently migrated to America from the city of Limbe in Cameroon, hoping to build a better life for their young son, Liomi.
As they try to make ends meet in their new life in America, Neni works as a home health aide while attending college where dreams to be a pharmacist one day while Jende drives a cab. After sometime Jende luck changes as he finds work as a personal chauffeur for a Lehman Brothers executive named Clark Edwards and his family. Though the hours are long the salary is a massive improvement over his previous job.
After Lehman Brothers declares bankruptcy just weeks before what would become a historic presidential election, that’s when Jende and Neni learn that the Edward’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it might seem.
Jende is forced to confront problems of his own, as he is waiting for his asylum application to be approved and his wife has a student visa. Though he is not really facing persecution in his home country, and he is hoping that the immigration lawyer he hired can persuade the judge to let him stay in the country.
Neni has a very strong character and only at the end does she act out of character when she blackmails Cindy Edward now that her frustration of having to go back to Cameroon was getting to her. But then again maybe most of us would have done that.
Jende is so hell bound to achieve his American dream that he feels very hopeless when things stop working out for him in America, immediately he is fired by the Edwards.
When reading the book the characters constantly keep getting hit, over and over again by bad circumstances beyond their control. Neni feels “crushed” by her own feelings of helplessness by the fact she travelled to America only to be reminded of how powerless she was and life could be.
Behold the Dreamers is a book that once you start reading you won’t put the book down as the characters are very captivating and the book is very realistic of what we all go through as we chase our dreams and never wanting to give up. It’s a novel that depicts a country both blessed and doomed, on top of the world but is always at a risk of losing its balance.
Near the end of it, Neni describes America as “a magnificent land of uninhibited dreamers” which might suitably describe the book as well.
Throughout the book different themes are portrayed which depict what we all go through as we try to achieve our dreams.