Fantastic rendering of a difficult circumstance, without relying on pity
Fantastic rendering of a difficult circumstance, without relying on pity

Title:  Behind the Beautiful Forevers                                         Author: Katherine Boo                                                            Publisher:  Random House Publishing Group                           Publication Date:  02/07/12                                                   Format: eBook, enhanced                                                              Genre: non-fiction 

Rating: This book is a wealth of perspective, as well as being a highly readable narrative of human life.  I strongly recommend it.  A 5 out of 5 for me.  I have one further recommendation; get this book in ebook format, enhanced with videos.  It brings a documentary quality to this very artful book.

Overview (reprinted from Barnes and Noble.com):  

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.

 

Review:   If you loved the movie City of the Gods, when it came out, then you will also like this book.  Given the horrific conditions and poverty the people she was observing are required to live in, Katherine Boo could have easily resorted to a pitying appeal to the reader’s sense of charity.  She doesn’t.  She portrays this hard-knocks life in all its fierceness.  She gives the reader a true sense of the humanity and dignity of these people, when the reader could easily be distracted by the inhumane circumstances of their lives.  This is an artfully constructed book, and gives the reader the impression of viewing a cinematic documentary.  I cannot imagine a better piece of narrative non-fiction.

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