Reading a novel in Lagos traffic is the antidote to losing your mind in the Nigerian mayhem. Some days ago, I wrote an article about Behold the Dreamers. This is Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel. I love a well-told American immigrant story, so I added this title to my October reading list. Well, it all went down on Monday evening in bumper to bumper traffic from Liverpool Road to Point Road in Apapa.


My First Pages

During the weekend, I got to meet the Jonga family. Jende, the Limbe bred thirtysomething year old African man whose goal in life is to become something to the benefit of his family and society; Neni is his eager wife and mother of their son who finally gets a shot to complete her schooling; and the Edwards family, the elitists painting the perfect picture of the American dream until you look closely.

Reading 80% with my Kindle

Imbolo Mbue adds homeliness to each character. You start to see people you know as well as yourself in their actions, decisions, and thoughts. You see traces of kindness and humanity in a stream of selfishness. Despite my despondency that Monday evening, Imbolo made me laugh out loud at the ludicrous statements and suggestions proffered by supporting characters like Fatou and Leah.

The children in the book are lovable. Mighty Edwards with his innocence and admiration of puff-puff and eating authentic Cameroonian food while seated on the floor. Then, there is Liomi who trusts his parents completely to provide him with all he needs to succeed. Although not a child, Vince Edwards “let’s all go off the grid” decisions and break away from the elite mold made me smile.

The 2008 recession is broken down into bite-sized portions. This adds an educative element to the story. From start to finish, the reader cheers for the quest of a family’s happiness. Clark and Cindy Edwards, employers of the Jonga family have all that the Jonga family is fighting for. Still, how much thousands of dollars will it take to erase their troubles and secrets? How far can one go for a Green Card? This is the ultimate question that the Jonga family must answer as they pick up odd jobs, fall into the hands of shady characters, and persevere even when loyalty is not repaid in kind.

An American Home Run

Five hours later, safely at home from an adventurous night, I sat upright on my bed to discover how this story ends. Did Jende Jonga get a Green Card? Will Cindy Edwards come to terms with what she can control and what she cannot? Is Neni going to graduate as a pharmacist? You would have to read Behold the Dreamers yourself to find out. I already found my happy ending.



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