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In Imbolo Mbue’s masterful novel, about a married couple from Cameroon fighting to live in America and find the American Dream, there is a scene where the husband Jende, a chauffeur, tells his rich boss, Clark Edwards, a Lehman Brothers executive, that where he is from in Cameroon as you drive upon the Limbe city limits there is a sign that says Limbe is the city where everyone is your friend.
The Limbe sign is a symbol of ambivalence to Jende. On one hand, the loving community connection is a place of love and innocence; on the other hand, Limbe is a city where you’re stagnant, where “you can never be a somebody.”
This novel is about Jende and his wife Neni, a pharmaceutical student, moving away from innocence and landing in Harlem and trying to find the American Dream of Privilege, Power, and Consumerism. Jende and Neni are too wise and complex to not notice materialism’s traps, but even their awareness and small town values...
An interesting story by Imbolo Mbue putting forth the idea that America may not be the most wonderful place for all people. The author who is a native of Cameroon was educated in the USA and has lived here for more than ten years. This is her first novel. Neni and Jende learned to adapt to the life in New York City, but were constantly playing catch-up in pursuing the American Dream. I admired both of the protagonists for their strong work ethic and sense of duty to family and a code of conduct based on seemingly universal concepts of right and wrong. Yet the young author's message seemed to be that their life in America had corrupted the Cameroons and that the way to recapture this strong sense of morality the Jongas should return to their native country.
This is a simple, nicely wrought story that really gives the reader an inside view of what the immigrant experience is like...especially in New York. In light of what is happening in our country now, this story of a black man from West Africa and his wife is very touching. The characters are nicely developed and while the story is a bit slow it works to bond the reader.You have a kind, earnest couple trying their best to earn money, raise their child with values and be good people. The system has other ideas and wants to wreak havoc with their lives. I believe this is a first novel and the author created a fine read.
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