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

1,756 customer reviews

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Length: 290 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews 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: 2318 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Publication Date: February 7, 2012
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4X7JO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,123 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

752 of 770 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on 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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323 of 337 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Webster TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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211 of 231 people found the following review helpful By Anne M. Hunter VINE VOICE on 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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