Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Winner of the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award this year, and Oprah's latest pick, Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is the fast-paced, timely and beautiful story of two families intersecting in the before and after of the 2008 financial crisis.

The main storytellers - Jende and Neni Jonga - are Cameroonian citizens living in the U.S. on temporary visas with their young son. Jende gets a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a top executive at Lehman Brothers, his wife and two kids. Over time, Neni also finds work with this family as a maid and nanny. On the rising wave of Jende's and Neni's wealth and comfort in New York City through their employment with the Edwards' family, the reader experiences a well-rounded time of hope and prosperity. Their son becomes indoctrinated into American ways and they become pregnant with a second child. The two families become unique support systems and confidants, with Jende and Neni pulled further and further into the private lives of Clark and Cindy - their struggles and shortcomings.  

‘You know what I’m realizing now?’ he said to her. ‘What?’ she asked, looking at him adoringly. ‘We are sitting in the center of the world.’ She laughed. ‘You’re so funny.’ ‘No, think about it,’ he said. ‘Columbus Circle is the center of Manhattan. Manhattan is the center of New York. New York is the center of America, and America is the center of the world. So we are sitting in the center of the world, right?’
— Imbolo Mbue, Behold the Dreamers

However, the 2008 financial crisis leads to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, and, from there, one hardship after another knocks both families from the pedestal of the American Dream. Just like the fragility of the economy, the fragility of these intricate relations too become exposed, and each of their flaws as well. 

‘It’s the fear that kills us, Leah,’ Jende said. ‘Sometimes it happens and it’s not even as bad as the fear. That is what I have learned in this life. It is the fear.’
— Imbolo Mbue, Behold the Dreamers

Mbue does a delicate, devastating and marvelous job of writing these complexities as truth that is neither right or wrong. It is simply how things are. And, in this surrender, to the American Reality as opposed to the American Dream, the expansiveness of each of these characters, and their potential salvation, is beautifully revealed.