Even though it was not set in Cameroon, I appreciated the peak into the Cameroonian culture, via the family life, food references, and the characters' reminiscing of their hometown and childhoods. One big cultural dynamic that was highlighted in the story was the relationship between the Cameroonian husband and wife. The main characters had an intense loyalty to one another and took their roles in marriage seriously. The husband was willing to make difficult decisions that he thought were best for the wife, even when he knew it would make her mad. He was willing to go to great lengths to supply for and protect his family. The wife was committed to standing by her man and did so by submitting to decisions she didn't like and forgiving both verbal and physical abuse. I thought it was brave of the author to present this aspect of her own culture, especially to a western audience that might be really put off by it. She highlights this through several characters in the book, other than just Jende and Neni, which made me think she was portraying the normality of it in her culture.
I thought the core theme of the book was "Is the 'American Dream' worth it?" A lot of people around the world believe that America is the promised land of success and happiness. Jende and Neni are willing to pursue that dream at almost any cost because of the lack of opportunity in their own country and their desire to impress everyone back home. Their wealthy employers, the Edwardses, appear to have everything, but are still zealously pursing the same dream at a much higher cost. The ending of the story for everyone is both tragic and hopeful.
I hope the author, who is herself an immigrant from Cameroon to New York City, continues to write from her cultural background and experiences. It is such a helpful way for us to get insight that we normally wouldn't have and to be able to relate with people who are different than us. I would recommend the book to anyone who is looking for something that will both entertain and enlighten you.
Luke and I are married and have four little munchkins that travel the world with us. I blog about living overseas, travel, kids, education and graphic design.
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