- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (February 7, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781400067558
- ISBN-13: 978-1400067558
- ASIN: 1400067553
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2,108 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity 1st Edition
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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’s writing is superb 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
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
Top customer reviews
It takes a while until the basis for the title of the book becomes clear. It turns out that the road alongside the airport, taking people from their arrivals and departures and leading to the modern hotels and relative wealth of the city, is lined with large signs, advertisements that say 'Beautiful Forever' as part of the products slogan, again and again. It is behind these road signs, erected not only to promote the product but also to block the view from the roadway to the slums, so that travelers and other more fortunates are not disturbed by such sights as they pass by.
I enjoyed this book as well as learned from it, insights into some of the day to day details of life for these people, and how they manage within their own sub societies to scrape out a living. Imagine, if you can, earning money by foraging through garbage for any small scraps of metal or plastic that could be of value and could be sold to recyclers or scrap agents, at best earning pennies each day and at times not having enough money for even the simplest meal. It is a life that is hard to imagine even when reading about it, but it exists and is very real to those who live there today and will continue to live in these circumstances for the foreseeable future.
I'd seen Katherine Boo interviewed a few years ago as the book was just coming out and bought it for my dad, thinking he'd like it. I never heard from him about whether he did or not, but when I was alerted to the book's reduced price, I got it for myself and found it quite the page turner. I just now learned from her Author's Note of her adventure with the abridged dictionary. Like many who suffer serious life threatening injury, a solo act no matter who else is around, I may understand how her preexisting doubts about life direction and risk acquired a shift in clarity. She chose to commit this brave act of observational journalism and I am very glad she did.
Behind the Beautiful Forever reads like a novel, but reflects the author's four years of interviews with her subjects, much of which was captured on video. The book is multi-layered, revealing individual personalities, family and social structures, and economic and political forces animating modern India. The finished work is riveting and provides an in-depth exploration of the best and the worst of this rapidly developing nation.
Had Dickens turned to non-fiction set in Mumbai, it would have resembled this rich and absorbing volume. Highly recommended.