Reading a book within 3 days is definitely not a reflection on my ability to read quickly but is completely a reflection of how engrossing this book is! I was first introduced to Imbolo Mbue’s novel through the Instgram page GoodBlackReads and I can say with no hesitation that this book is an absolutely excellent read!
“New York, 2007. After two long years apart Jenga Jonga has brought his wife Neni from Cameroon to join him in the land of opportunity. Drawn by the promise of America they are seeking the chance of a better life for them and their son.“
When the reader is introduced to Jenga Jonga, we are invited into the world of a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem who has traveled to the United States in search of the markers of the American Dream. A richer life; one filled with prosperity, success and limitless opportunities for not only himself but also his wife and their six year old son Liomi. Jenga is simply seeking what many immigrants seek when venturing into pastures a new; a chance to provide a better life for himself and his family. In 2017 the world community are bystanders to the sacrifices, dangers and tragedies this quest brings for migrants; men traveling through parts of Africa to get to Europe being trafficked and sold into slavery for as little as $400, bodies of migrant girls aged 14-18 recently recovered from the Mediterranean Sea. These stories highlight the desperation of our fellow man. A desperation which is echoed within this novel. No matter where you are, what position you are in life, the pursuit of dreams, the pursuit of social mobility is a journey we all take. The question for us all including Jende, Neni, Clake Edwards, Jende’s boss and Lehman Brother executive and his wife Cindy is, what will WE sacrifice along the way?
The Edwards appear as society’s paradigm for the gains at your disposal once you’ve achieved the American Dream; the power and privilege, perhaps even a summer home in the Hamptons. Yet the Edwards are dreamers too. Dreaming of their best lives whilst trying to navigate the pain of their realities. What I enjoyed most about this novel was its deviation from the stereotypical immigrant story. There are twists and turns which are unexpected and characters who go too great lengths to protect their families, their dreams, their lives. As you can tell, I’m trying my best not to give too much of the story away!
As a character driven novel, Mbue presents the reader with characters who are authentic. Who expose the smoke screen of the American Dream for not only immigrants but Americans themselves. Overall this is a fresh and insightful novel, drawing on the realities of being an illegal immigrant and importantly, the emotional turmoil that this imposes on your family and your own mental wellbeing.
We dream, we struggle, we survive…
Hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!