Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

Reading Update – August 16, 2017

After finishing Behold the Dreamers, I was ready for something lighter. That means I returned to James Patterson. After spending a couple of days with the next novel in the series, I realized that I probably would not be able to finish the book before leaving the Geriatric Ward on Sunday. Since I only borrow these novels from a library and hadn’t gotten very far into the reading, I decided it was time to make a trip to the bookstore and change directions.

Now as I’m sitting on my couch in my Plainview apartment, I have a stack of books sitting next to me that I’m looking forward to reading. Listening to book reviews on the drive back to west Texas also meant that my TBR list grew (that’s “To Be Read” in case you are wondering). So with packing, driving across state lines, and slowly returning to my normal work routine, I am slowly making a dent in reading my latest novel — Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

The novel has been recommended to me by multiple people in the past few years. There was always something about the title that caused me to pause. I also tend to shy away from books that are longer than 400 pages; every time I’ve attempted a book much longer than that, I tend to lose interest before I reach the end and find myself stuck or trying to plow through when I really want to walk away. With its 650 pages, I am hopeful that Cutting for Stone will be a different story. I have only managed to read a little over 150 pages so far, but I am engrossed by this story and Abraham Verghese’s prose. I suppose that may be one of the reasons the novel was a national bestseller. I also find it very intriguing that this work was Verghese’s first novel.

So I’m going to continue reading….and I’ll tell you more about the story in a future post.

Leave a comment »

#19: Behold the Dreamers (Imbolo Mbue)

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is the 2017 selection of Oprah’s Book Club. The novel tells the story of Jende and Neni, Cameroonian nationals that have recently come to America, and their two children, Liomi and Timba. The novel is a family saga. It is an exploration of the modern American Dream. It is a chronicle of the difficulty of immigrants in the major cities of the United States.

Jende is a simple man. He has not completed a degree at a University. He has no marketable skills. He is living in New York and needs to provide for his wife and young child. (Timba is born while the couple resides in the United States about halfway through the novel.) Since he does not have a green card, Jende accepts a job as a chauffeur for the Edwards family, a upper crust Manhattan family led by Clark — a Wall Street mogul. Life is good for Jende and his family until the housing crisis hits and leads to the desemation of the Edwards family, which results in Jende losing his job. Without employment and without a green card, Jende finds himself facing a new struggle — the threat of deportation.

Struggling to keep his family fed, Jende begins to dream of returning to Cameroon. Neni, however, has no desire to see herself or her children leave the American Promise that she has now found. She turns to religious organizations for help. She considers divorcing Jende and re-marrying an American citizen for a few years in order to stay in this country, continue her education, and follow her dreams of becoming a pharmacist. Ultimately, Neni must accept the fact that the country she loves does not want her family to stay.

Behold the Dreamers is much more than a simple story about a Cameroonian family. The immigrant family is constantly contrasted with the the Edwards family and their struggles and successes as an American family. The reader learns much about the inner workings of ICE and the federal government’s expectations of immigrants. America is portrayed as a land of hope and opportunity, but also as a place that keeps those dreams just out of reach of all but the most elite. The novel, while beautifully written, is a challenging read that forces the reader to pull back the curtain and take an honest look at American immigration in the 21st century.

Leave a comment »

Reading Update – August 2, 2017

In an effort to make my posts on Reading for Me a bit more regular…..and to help me see what is happening between the actual review posts about each book…..I’ve decided to begin providing a weekly update about my reading when a new review is not ready for publication. In other words, when I haven’t finished reading a book within the week, I want to talk about what’s been going on and why the book isn’t getting read more quickly.

After finishing James Patterson’s Unlucky 13, I decided it was time to dive into something a little more intellectually stimulating and began working my way through Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. Shortly after getting started, I managed to sprain my ankle and have been hobbling around on crutches and a cane for most of the past week. Now, I can hear you asking what a sprained ankle has to do with my failure to read…..all I can say is that my brain must have moved to the little toe of my left foot this week! It was far easier to spend time with Hulu and Netflix while recovering than in deep thought trying to read Mbue’s novel. I am slowly making my way back to the book as my foot is finally getting better after a re-injury.

Let me tell you my thoughts about the book so far. Behold the Dreamers is the newest selection for Oprah’s Book Club and has received wonderful reviews from the New York Times. The story centers around two men — Jende and Clark — and their families. Set in New York City around the time of the Lehman Brothers’ 2008 collapse, Clark is a senior executive for the bank. Jende is a Cameroonian immigrant who works as Clark’s chauffeur in order to provide for his family. The story centers around how the lives of these two families intersect and how they have contrasting views of the American Dream, success, and family.

I’ve read just over half of the novel’s 382 pages so far. I’m finding it a challenging read thus far. Part of the issue is my lack of familiarity with the Lehman collapse and the economic principles at work. Additionally, the legal challenges facing the Cameroonian immigrants are fascinating and thought-provoking, given the current political climate. I’ve decided to savor the pages and allow myself to become engulfed in Jende’s experience that Mbue has written so beautifully. 

That’s where I am. I plan to have my final review of the book ready for your consideration next week. What’s up next? Back to James Patterson and 14th Deadly Sin…..I’m really ready to be current with the Women’s Murder Club books so I can move into something else.

Leave a comment »