Good Reads
4:05 pm
Mon August 13, 2012

Good Read: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is the kind of book journalists dream of writing. Katherine Boo spent approximately four years with the people of the Annawadi slums in Mumbai in order to craft her expose on Indian poverty. The book reads like a novel. Though she witnessed most of the book’s events herself, Boo excises herself from the story, writing in third person perspective of the people in Annawadi. 

The events Boo didn’t see, she painstakingly researched. In the book’s pivotal scene, in which a woman in the slums lights herself on fire, Boo says in the author’s note that she conducted over 100 interviews with local people to find out what happened. 

Boo’s credibility is comforting background, but it was the quality of the writing that kept me reading. I felt close to every person in Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Poverty and government corruption are grand and remote issues, but Boo makes them human by writing about people, not problems. Sunil, a trash picker, worries his lack of good nutrition will leave him shorter than his little sister. Manju, daughter of the most powerful woman in Annawadi, memorizes book synopses for her English literature classes as she does laundry and cooks dinner. Abdul, a trash dealer, tries to keep his head down and earn enough to put tiles on his family’s dirt floor. 

Behind the Beautiful Forevers avoids being precious or preachy. It’s simply honest.    

- Angela Hatton

Description from Wikipedia:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity is a non-fiction book written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo in 2012. It describes the present-day Annawadi slum of Mumbai, India, located near the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. It follows the interconnected lives of several residents, including a young trash picker, a female "slumlord," and a college student.