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Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Life, Death, and Hope in A Mumbai Undercity

Boo, Katherine

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
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. Winner of the National Book Award | The PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award | The Los Angeles Times Book Prize | The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award | The New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Book Award NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times * The Washington Post * O: The Oprah Magazine * USA Today * New York * The Miami Herald * San Francisco Chronicle * Newsday NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New Yorker * People * Entertainment Weekly * The Wall Street Journal * The Boston Globe * The Economist * Financial Times * Newsweek /The Daily Beast * Foreign Policy * The Seattle Times * The Nation * St. Louis Post-Dispatch * The Denver Post * Minneapolis Star Tribune * Salon * The Plain Dealer * The Week * Kansas City Star * Slate * Time Out New York * Publishers Weekly NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER "A book of extraordinary intelligence [and] humanity . . . beyond groundbreaking." --Junot Díaz, The New York Times Book Review "Reported like Watergate, written like Great Expectations, and handily the best international nonfiction in years." -- New York "This book is both a tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece." --Judges' Citation for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award "[A] landmark book." -- The Wall Street Journal "A triumph of a book." --Amartya Sen "There are books that change the way you feel and see; this is one of them." --Adrian Nicole LeBlanc "[A] stunning piece of narrative nonfiction . . . [Katherine] Boo's prose is electric." --O: The Oprah Magazine "Inspiring, and irresistible . . . Boo's extraordinary achievement is twofold. She shows us how people in the most desperate circumstances can find the resilience to hang on to their humanity. Just as important, she makes us care." --People

Publisher: New York : Random House, c2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9781400067558
Branch Call Number: 305.569 B644b 2012
Characteristics: xxii, 256 p. ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Boo’s (The New Yorker)…takes a look at the stark lives of the inhabitants of Annawadi, a slum across from Mumbai’s Sahar Airport, to reveal the wrenching inequality and urban poverty still endemic in India’s democracy…. A tour de force.—Library Journal, February ... Read More »

From the critics

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Jan 02, 2015
  • brangwinn rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

The first time I tried reading the book, I had to put it down. Reading about people living in a Mumbai slum was just too depressing. Then I visited India, and the story became much more personal. I'd seen examples and hear so much about graft. I'd see that some people were better off in the slums than they had been previously. I understood the difference between legal and illegal slums. The story became much more personal. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has spent some time in India.

Jul 10, 2014

This amazing book explores the lives of the poor underclass in a rapidly modernizing India. Living in the shadows of the beautiful Mumbai airport the Annawadi slum residents make their way as well as they can, living, loving and trying to make a living as best they can.

Jun 14, 2014
  • IPL_Mandy rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

This book tells the story of multiple people living in a Mumbai slum and how their lives are intertwined. It switches between their different voices, giving varied perspectives on the same situations while still advancing the story. As with most books about India, it is a sad story, but one well worth reading. This is the kind of book that grows compassion.

Serving suggestion: chapatis with dal

Jun 12, 2014

I read the book and how unfortunate for the slum dwellers to live that way. Oprah did a show of the Mumbai slums and it hardly even comes close to what is the real reality behind what its really like. Katherine Boo takes you on a deep journey into true character and the real core characteristics the mind sets of real people and real lives. This is a must read, a definate page turner.

Jan 28, 2014
  • ncinnb rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book was heartbreading to read. The poverty and corruption the author describes seem insurmountable, but the human spirit shines through and the will to live is strong. I love the book's title - so mundane yet so deep!

Oct 28, 2013
  • madison382 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Could not enjoy this book, because the subject matter was so sad, however I am glad I read this book, so that I can be more appreciative of what I have, and of the country I live in.

Aug 29, 2013
  • gracindaisy rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This book was not an easy read; however, I came away with a vivid glimpse of life in an Indian slum and the insurmountable poverty plaguing each character, so much that it drove some to suicide. Even though it is non-fiction work, at times it read like fiction because of the great contrast to my own life experience. The unpredictability of life in an Indian slum makes one appreciate some of the things we take for granted in the US – the rule of law, healthcare, basic housing, city water and sewage systems.

Jul 13, 2013
  • icujock rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Whoa! A KO. Having lived in Mumbai, I can say that Ms Boo has portrayed the conditions accurately. Grinding poverty, unknown to us in America, makes for some great Dickinsonian story-but the not so hidden message is about human nature and the ability to prevail under subhuman conditions.

Jun 24, 2013
  • AKTimmerman rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

I really did not care for this book. I understand the author was trying to help us understand the life of the very poorest in India. It is just that I was already aware of this via other books and news outlets. But, I do appreciate the author's commitment to telling the story.

Jun 17, 2013
  • patienceandfortitude rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This is a hard book to read, about poverty in the slums of India -- a world completely different than the one I know. The lives of those portrayed are complex in their misery and their hopes. There are no easy answers to solve their desperate poverty and corruption is just part of the system. I'm glad I read this book as it is eye-opening, although very disturbing.

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