Reviews & Reception

Behold the Dreamers feels as though it’s needed right now: a novel about the strife of the immigrant, often overlooked or ignored, in the midst of an influx of refugees.

— Cole Meyer, The Masters Review



Imbolo Mbue’s Behold The Dreamers has earned overwhelming praise for its candid analysis of the less advantageous angles of the “American Dream,” told through the juxtaposition of Cameroonian immigrants and their wealthy, white-American counterparts. While almost every reviewer lauded the novel for the unique perspective it brought to an important time in recent American history, some had qualms with how Mbue built her characters, most of whom wanted the characters to be more fleshed out. Despite this there is one viewpoint that persists through every review: This novel is necessary. Now that America is post recession, a novel such as Mbue’s is damning and it captures the essence of the underbelly of American racism and the defunct idea of the American dream told through the perspective of an immigrant family struggling simply for better opportunities for success and social mobility. This page will feature the reception of Mbue’s novel and of her ability to capture the reality of Dreams both delicately and honestly.



Thoughts from Oprah:

“[A] beautiful, empathetic novel . . . Mbue’s narrative energy and sympathetic eye soon render . . . commonplace ingredients vivid, complex, and essential. . . . At once critical and hopeful, Behold the Dreamers traces the political and economic systems that push individuals toward dishonesty, while also acknowledging the bad and affirming the good in their complicated personal choices.”
— The Boston Globe
“There are a lot of spinning plates, and Mbue balances them skillfully, keeping ­everything in motion. Even more impressive is the vitality that gleams through the film of gloom as the story becomes less about what happens to the Jongas than about their efforts to make peace with their fate, whatever and wherever it might be.”
— Cristina Henriquez, New York Times
“As a dissection of the American Dream, Imbolo Mbue’s first novel is savage and compassionate in all the right places.”
— The New York Times
Behold the Dreamers . . . just might be the most accessible novel I’ve ever read. . . . Mbue does an admirable job of developing characters whose lives seem so heartbreakingly real that the pages of this book often seem like something of a confinement. When you close the book, you will hear their pain. You might feel them calling for you.”
— Los Angeles Review of Books


“This is not a story of noble immigrants versus the evil banking class: Mbue is too skilful for that. The Edwardses are self-absorbed and selfish but slim bridges of genuine affection exist between them and the Jongas. On the other hand, the Jongas are not simple Africans who eschew materialism and can teach the Edwardses how to live a contented life. Both Jende and Neni rejoice in the consumerism of America and grasp at all that capitalism has to offer.”
–The Guardian
“Behold the Dreamers is, at times, hard to read — not because of her writing, which is excellent, but because the characters keep getting hit, over and over again, by horrible circumstances beyond their control… Behold the Dreamers is a remarkable debut. Mbue is a wonderful writer with an uncanny ear for dialogue — there are no false notes here, no narrative shortcuts, and certainly no manufactured happy endings. It’s a novel that depicts a country both blessed and doomed, on top of the world, but always at risk of losing its balance. It is, in other words, quintessentially American.”
— Michael Schaub, National Public Radio

 Thoughts from NPR:



“And yet, while the novel’s setup is rich with possibility, Mbue doesn’t always make the most of it… When Neni starts working for Cindy Edwards at the family’s vacation house in the Hamptons, the conceit is ripe — the Jongas of Harlem pitted against the ­Edwardses of the Hamptons. But these places remain little more than signifiers… There’s no deep exploration of the true gap between the [Edwards’ and Jonga’s]”
–Cristina Henriquez, New York Times


“As one chapter folds into the next, Mbue’s characters become increasingly erratic and compulsive. The changes are sudden and jarring and cannot simply be excused by the circumstances of the crisis. Behold the Dreamers is a long novel that oftentimes forgets what’s at stake for its characters, instead progressing plot through overheard conversations and one-sided phone calls. It’s a crutch that quickly becomes tedious, as it feels more like a wink to the reader than actual information.”
–Cole Meyer, The Masters Review


Behold the Dreamers’ Homepage