Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai UndercityBehind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This isn’t the kind of book that one can say one “likes.” It is certainly powerful, moving, and thought-provoking. It is written in a style that perhaps removes one from the horrors that are recounted – straight-forward and unemotional. All of the events are real, but it reads like fiction. It may be about poverty, and corruption, desperation and death, but it is also about the fierce competitiveness of survival, hope for a better future, and the occasional triumph of education and information over corruption. I did come to care for the “characters” in the end, and it would be nice to have some kind of follow-up in the future as to what happened to them.

Book description: 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.

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