Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
By Katherine Boo
2012 Random House
This true story of life in a slum in Mumbai, India is one of the most beautifully written and devastating non-fiction books I have ever read. It follows several families that live in a slum in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement close to luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. The main person that we follow is Abdul, an enterprising Muslim teen who works everyday gathering the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. As the book progresses, he is accused of a horrible crime and we see the effects on his family as well as others in the settlement.
The author is married to an Indian native and lives both there and in the United States. She spent 3 years researching this book, gathering documents and interviewing the people over and over again. Her writing is wonderful, I was hanging on every word. The book showed that razor thin edge between hope and disaster. The outlook on life that some of these people have in spite of their conditions are breathtaking. It is a book that is both inspirational and disturbing at once. The amount of corruption in local and national government in India is hard to take.
One of the reviews called it Dickensian, which did not occur to me as I was reading it, but is very apt The Washington Post review said: "It is astonishing on several levels: as a worm’s-eye view of the “undercity” of one of the world’s largest metropolises; as an intensely reported, deeply felt account of the lives, hopes and fears of people traditionally excluded from literate narratives; as a story that truly hasn’t been told before, at least not about India and not by a foreigner. But most of all, it is astonishing that it exists at all…. a searing account, in effective and racy prose, that reads like a thrilling novel but packs a punch Sinclair Lewis might have envied.” I highly recommend this book for a look into a culture we know all too little about.