The dreamers in Behold The Dreamers are two undocumented immigrants from Cameroon trying to make it in New York City. They soon find themselves working for a rich trader’s family and they can see their American Dream within reach. But the 2008 recession is looming, which will deprive the trader of his lucrative job and expose his personal troubles while the immigration courts grind towards expulsion. The complicated relationship between the rich employers and their poor employees is captured perfectly, with the employers utterly unaware of the financial hardships of their chauffeur and housekeeper, and blithely assuming a relationship of equals while the employees carefully weigh each interaction to keep the jobs they desperately need. And there are no stock characters here: each can display kindness as well as hate, and has deep secrets.
Tag Archives: New York
Mister Monkey reads as a series of short stories, each focusing on a different character loosely associated with a mediocre production of a children’s play of the same name. The style is engaging but the structure feels a bit forced. And don’t expect too much depth although it is peppered with perceptive observations about the plight of the new teacher forced into political correctness, or the young actor who does not quite know what to do with his feeling for adult actresses.
Modern Lovers features two hipster couples, one lesbian and one heterosexual, friends since college. They live in a hipster Brooklyn neighborhood and their (only) teenage children have fallen in love, to their dismay (it’s not entirely clear why this is causing so much dismay). Cue in the kale and the yoga and all the other hipster accoutrements.
In addition to the children problem, the lone husband has yet to find himself (poor dear, he has a solid trust fund that has prevented him from going out to work) and a film about a long-lost partner in their college band is reviving uncomfortable memories. O, the travails of hipster life. I attained zero compassion for any of the characters.
The co-authors of How May We Hate You?: Notes from the Concierge Desk used to work for various hotels in New York City and recount their adventures with difficult customers with humor, yes, but a snarky, condescending, even hateful bite that makes one wonder whether to ever approach a concierge desk again. Sure, there are awful human beings out there and some frequent hotels and harass concierges, but surely the clueless tourist who does not realize they are already on 42nd street, or thinks that reservations to sold-out shows are obtainable by all-powerful concierges are simply confused and deserve a little pep talk rather than a nasty harangue. Pass on this one.
They May Not Mean To, But They Do is a perfectly reasonable novel about a New York family whose grandmother is not quite conforming to the choices her children would want her to make. There are many well-observed details throughout the book, whether it’s the children feeling that they would enjoy the burden-free life of assisted-living facilities, the daughter-in-law hating Christmas tree because she hates waste, or the adult grandson confiding in her grandmother much more freely than in his parents (and the grandmother keeping her thoughts to herself as she listens to him, likely explaining why he chooses to talk to her in the first place). That said, the story is rather pedestrian.
Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship is a lovely story of how a young woman who just separated from her husband (and, apparently and rather drastically, her daughter) gets solace from scrumptious dinners with the elderly father of a friend who needs cheering up as he ages, without his beloved wife. The recitation of the menus seems overdone in a sea of similar book structures, but I loved the soft, yet lucid focus on how hard it is to age and slowly lose the ability to do simple tasks, not to mention equally aged friends.