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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity [Kindle Edition]

Katherine Boo
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,457 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $8.50
You Save: $7.50 (47%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

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


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2012: Katherine Boo spent three years among the residents of the Annawadi slum, a sprawling, cockeyed settlement of more than 300 tin-roof huts and shacks in the shadow of Mumbai's International Airport. From within this "sumpy plug of slum," Boo unearths stories both tragic and poignant--about residents' efforts to raise families, earn a living, or simply survive. These unforgettable characters all nurture far-fetched dreams of a better life. As one boy tells his brother: "Everything around us is roses. And we're like the s**t in between." A New Yorker writer and recipient of a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur "Genius" grant, Boo writes superbly, and the depth and courage of her reporting from this hidden world is astonishing. At times, it's hard to believe this is nonfiction. --Neal Thompson

From Booklist

While the distance between rich and poor is growing in the U.S., the gap between the haves and have-nots in India is staggering to behold. This first book by a New Yorker staff writer (and Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for the Washington Post) jolts the reader’s consciousness with the opposing realities of poverty and wealth in a searing visit to the Annawaldi settlement, a flimflam slum that has recently sprung up in the western suburbs of the gigantic city of Mumbai, perched tentatively along the modern highway leading to the airport and almost within a stone’s throw of new, luxurious hotels. We first meet Abdul, whose daily grind is to collect trash and sell it; in doing so, he has “lifted his large family above subsistence.” Boo takes us all around the community, introducing us to a slew of disadvantaged individuals who, nevertheless, draw on their inner strength to not only face the dreary day but also ponder a day to come that will, perhaps, be a little brighter. Sympathetic yet objective and eloquently rendered. --Brad Hooper

Product Details

  • File Size: 1009 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1400067553
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4X7JO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,952 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
711 of 728 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just too painful to realize that all of this is real January 12, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The author of this book is an American Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who is married to an Indian man. She has spent the last few years doing scrupulous research for this book which is a realistic portrayal of life in a Mumbai slum. All the people are real. All the incidents really happened. And the writing itself is so good that it hooked me from the very beginning and kept my eyes glued to the pages.

This is a world where whole families live in cardboard shacks where sewage runs raw after storms, education is mostly nonexistent and the worst forms of corruption is everywhere. Here we meet the real people in the area - the young boy who scavenges scrap metal, a woman who tries to be political and the one college student who hopes for a brighter future. We also learn about the diseases that disable people and the compromises made just in order to put some food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. And then there is the endemic corruption. The police are paid little and depend on graft to make a living. expect to collect it whenever they can. Hospitals are filthy stink holes. And members of the community are so afraid of getting involved that they will let a man with a broken leg lie in the street for several days until he eventually dies.

The book is so well written that it brought me into the hearts and minds of these people who live in the shadow of a luxury hotel and an expanding airport. In spite of their poverty they have learned to be resourceful and struggle along the best they can.

The book reads like a novel. And, in a way I sure wish it was. It is just too painful to realize that this is all real. Hopefully, its publication will help to make a difference.
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313 of 326 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic achievement of narrative, immersed reporting December 23, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Embedded journalism" is often applied only to military journalists, but it's not a new style at all. Author Katherine Boo basically embedded herself in this slum of Mumbai, India, so readers could see, hear, and - to a degree - understand the lives of the residents. Her 'characters' face daily lives that I don't think an American could deal with for five minutes.

The book succeeds because it lacks sympathy - which is a good thing. The girls, boys, men, women are fully-realized people, not cariactures of "poor, pathetic Indians." In an author's Q+A, Boo says conveying that was important to her, and she did succeed. So the narrative is harsh, depressing, uncompromising, and sad - but it's uplifting, because the girls, boys, and adults in Boo's book are going to keep on living the best they can. They aren't begging for my or your help - they're getting up in the morning and doing what they can do to make it through each day, though some don't make it. I felt like I learned about their individual stories and lives, and about the Mumbai slums - a place I'll never see - at least a little bit, and without being preached at.

The details came from Boo's close observations of events she witnessed, and hundreds of interviews after the fact. An argument could be made, "how reliable could interviews with slumdwellers be?" Well, how reliable are you, when somebody asks about your life? People are people, and I'm sure once they got to used to Boo's presence, they liked having somebody new to talk to. I've embedded with the military as a journalist, and after a few days even soldiers who dislike the media stop seeing reporters as the "press," and as just another guy. I'm sure it was the same here.
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204 of 222 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life and death in a Mumbai slum December 25, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The interwoven stories of some of the 335 families in a tiny half-acre slum surrounded by luxury hotels at Mumbai's international airport reach out and grab the reader and pull you right in for a ride that I found to be intense and at times very painful. The author did intensive years-long research, interviewing,
videotaping, finding records, and hanging around until she was just part of
the environment. She makes herself invisible, not injecting her presence,
which I really enjoyed. Her point of view is clear, however.

The people in these slums are mostly from other states in India
besides Maharasthra, where Bombay is located, and many are either of the
untouchable caste, or Muslim. Rather than forming a community to try
to fight to survive and prosper, the adults fight among themselves,
trying to cheat and steal from each other. The young people seem less
vicious and corrupt, as they have more hope and less understanding of
how calamities can come out of nowhere, just as things seem to be
getting better, and tear everything down again. The police, the local
government, and the poor people are alike in their corruption,
demanding money from the desperate to fix things. The lack of
compassion and any sense of justice was distressing. The condition
of the women and girls was horrible. A serial killer may have been
picking off garbage scavenger boys, but the police record their
deaths as being from illness, so they don't have to bother looking
for a killer.

Children are not allowed by law to work, even if that's the only way they can
eat. The law is only enforced as a way for the police to extort money
from them.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Depressing book
This was a very depressing book with little hope for any future. The corruption and bribery would be impossible to defeat.
Published 23 hours ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
ok
Published 1 day ago by Duston R. Scudder
5.0 out of 5 stars FINELY WOVEN PATHOS AND KINDNESS
This a towering book of insight and compassion. I cannot begin to describe the humanizing and soul nurturing stories described in this book about India's poor. Read more
Published 1 day ago by roger carlisle
4.0 out of 5 stars beautiful language
This is a well documented book of the lives of people condemned to scavenging and extreme poverty whom the author brings to life, documenting and writing in beautiful prose what... Read more
Published 2 days ago by metg
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Read this for English class. Really opens your eyes to the economic disparity in modern India.
Published 2 days ago by ramona
4.0 out of 5 stars As expected
Course textbook
Published 2 days ago by Love The Earth
3.0 out of 5 stars I do not like reading about people suffering.
A rather depressing book. I do not like reading about people suffering. Still, the book was interesting and well written
Published 3 days ago by Warren
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Extraordinary book.
Published 4 days ago by Barbara Bruns Bachrach
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
So depressing. No hope that I could see
Published 5 days ago by JUDITH WILDMAN
4.0 out of 5 stars Slums of India
Amazing hard to believe story. Are the slums in India really like what is depicted in this book? Certainly not a place high on my "vacation" list.
Published 6 days ago by J Michael Reed
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