Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity
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This enhanced eBook features exclusive video footage shot over the course of three years by the author and several children of the Annawadi slum.
From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities.
In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.
Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl”—will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”
But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.
With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
Must read for people who have visited India
I have been to India quite a few times on business and have wondered how life is in the slums that pass by the window. In this book Boo gives us an inside look with a minimum of moralizing or recommendations of causes and solutions. You get the sense that she is not twisting stories to make a political point. This makes the reporting in this book appear to be quite honest and the insight unique and valuable. if you care about India and wonder how poor people there can better there lives and even how you might influence outcomes in this fascinating society, read this book.
Truman Caopte-esque, shades of Hemingway, frontline in the Annawadi slum
Katherine Boo's work in Annawadi began a few months after I got to spend 3 months myself working and traveling in India in 2007. I visited Mumbai one weekend, winding up in a record setting flood. Children swam in the streets and power was shutdown to prevent electrocution in parts of the city. I visited the Siddhi Vinayak, temple to Ganesh, that is mentioned at one point toward the end. I got to know India firsthand mostly in Hyderabad, India's fifth largest city. I saw many of the things that Katherine describes so clearly - the corruption, the thronging people, the Hindu caste sensitivities and the Hindu/Muslim tension. Also the terrorists and communists rebellions -- two bombs killed more than 40 people in Hyderabad while I was there.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a great read that tells several great stories about pathetic, heroic and highly relatable characters, whose lives intertwine in the slum and with the city and with the villages the slum-dwellers migrate from. The emotional arc, attention to everyday detail and unflinching realism reminded me of a much older (1935) fictional work, Untouchable, by Mulk Raj Anand. The only thing I found wanting from Katherine Boo's book was more, I wanted it to go on longer. I look forward to what she comes out with next.
Great read!! Hard to put down!!