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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity

"'Statistics,' Katherine Boo writes, 'sometimes have a tenuous relationship to lived experience.' The lived experience Boo chose to document is one about which we've heard plenty of statistics: the life of the Mumbai 'slumdweller'. We've heard that India is booming; we've also heard that Mumbai has more 'slumdwellers' than just about any other city in the world. How do we make sense of this? For Katherine Boo, spending four years documenting the daily lives of residents of Annawadi was a good place to start.

I picked up this book wondering if Boo, a foreign woman, could really tell this story. After being sucked in, drained, sobered, and uplifted by this book, I came to the conclusion that she pulled it off singularly well. With a keen eye for the narrative, Boo is a tireless pursuer of understanding and a challenger of generalizations. This book changed how I think about storytelling and the power it has to humanize injustices made banal by statistics. As Boo says herself, empathy is a muscle that grows stronger with use - pick up this book and start flexing!"

Sarah S.

See all my recommendations »

Author Katherine Boo
Publisher Random House Trade Paperbacks
Publication Date 2014-04-08
Section Asia & The Pacific / New Titles - Paperback / All Staff Suggestions / Non-Fiction Suggestions / Sarah S.
Type New
Format Paperback
ISBN 9780812979329

In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget. 

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