Jende Jonga, his wife Neni and six year old son are migrants from Cameroon. America is the land of opportunity, the only chance they have in life to make money, get rich, achieve the American dream of the house in the suburbs, a good education for their children, good jobs for themselves. Jende is essentially an illegal, but that does not stop him seeking jobs. Neni has a student visa, she wants to be a pharmacist, and their son has a visa under Neni's student one. The optimism and their energy is boundless in this land of amazing opportunity. The Edwards are also chasing that dream, and it would seem they have well and truly made it. They are privileged, powerful, rich, living the dream. Clark is very senior in Lehman Brothers, Cindy is his society wife, and they have two sons, one of whom is hating law school, and the much younger Mighty. Jende lands himself a well paid job as Clark's chauffeur and so begins a relationship that ends up transcending the employer/employee dynamic. Jende and Neni can now see a future for themselves, if only they could get over the stumbling block of Jende's illegal resident status.
But is 2007-2008, and we all know what happened to Lehman Brothers, as well as many other financial giants. The fall out is enormous, like a big spreading stain, affecting thousands of people caught up in the washout. At times the story lumbers along, making it for me a bit too long and drawn out. But the characters are wonderful, fully rounded, their good sides and their bad sides in full view. I love books with real people in them, people you can relate to, people you can shout at no don't do that, people you want to meet and give a big hug too because in all their goodness and badness they are so intensely human. This is such an insight into the migrant experience in a truly tough town like New York, as the author herself was. New York is a magnet for people not just from other countries, but also from within the US, as it was for Clark and Cindy. So this book is also about the white, privileged migrant experience.