Sally D. (Racine, WI)
Very worth reading
People may be scared away by the description of the subject matter of this book. Am I really in the mood to read a sad, gut- wrenching story about these poor souls in The slums of India?
My advise to those people is "Try it". From the very first I was drawn into these characters and their community. It is fascinating to read about how they survive such horror and still retain (for the most part) their willingness to look to the future and keep on trying.
I guarantee the stories and characters in this book will stay with you long after you have finished it.
Sharon P. (Jacksonville, FL)
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Katherine Roo has written an amazing story of people living in unimaginable poverty. An American writer married to an Indian man, she has seen the amazing transformation of many large cities in India; "skyscraping luxury condominiums with stirring views of other skyscraping luxury condominiums". She felt the need to find out what had happened in historically poor communities, the people usually overlooked or displaced by the frenzied rush for "bigger and better".
She chose the makeshift "city" of Annawadi , huddled in the shadow of the luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. The people live in a range of hovels or shacks made of everything from dirt or cardboard to scrap wood or scavenged bricks. Children make pennies by scavenging garbage to sell to recyclers. In spite of living in horrendous conditions, some of the residents are able to create a standard of living that gives them some hope for the future.
The author has captured both the appalling poverty and the amazing courage and optimism of the people of Annawadi.
This is a book well worth reading.
Darlene C. (Woodstock, il)
Remember - narrative non-fiction - Not a novel!
This is an extremely well written book although one that is difficult to read due to the painful subject matter. If readers are not familiar with "narrative non-fiction" I would suggest reading the "Author's Note" first. This should probably be at the beginning of the book rather than at the end. It is important for readers to understand this is a work of non-fiction, not a novel. Boo is a talented writer who brings a hidden population to light. Not a book read for enjoyment but for education. Her description of the slums of Anawadi, India and the lives of the people who who inhabit them is superb. Boo's book reads like a novel while bringing an important message to all of us about the state of many in our world. I would highly recommend this book. It would be a terrific book club choice.
Marta T. (Lafayette, CA)
Research brought to life, with important universal insights
Set in one of the grimmest urban areas of India, this beautifully written book examines three years in the daily lives of people struggling to survive in a slum near the Mumbai airport. It's not a work of fiction, though it's reminiscent of Slum Dog Millionaire and A Fine Balance. One wants the story to end well and with finality, but reality doesn't always have a neat ending. The author, Katherine Boo, brings the reader remarkably close to the slum dwellers, given language barriers, the presence of an outsider, and the difficulties of communicating with people who don't have the luxury of having much to say. It's a tale of the effort and ingenuity of people trying to improve their lot, and the obstacles that prevent this, from natural disasters to political decisions to global economics, and most of all, corruption. It shows how empathy can be squashed, and injustice can run amok. The themes are compelling; this book would be an excellent choice for readers in a group to explore how they apply to our own communities, and how to change others for the better.
Susan B. (Rutledge, MO)
heartbreaking, well written, memorable
As many others have noted, this is not an easy book to read. As I sit in my comfy house and type on my personal computer, just knowing that I experience a level of safety and security that is literally impossible to imagine for the people in this non-fiction narrative is both mind-stretching and heartbreaking. This glimpse into a few of the “little lives” impacted by the terrible inequalities that exist in the world is painful, eye-opening, and well worth a read by anyone who cares to know how others experience the world.
Carolyn A. (Sarasota, FL)
behind the beautiful forevers
Everybody in Annawadi talks like this - oh, I will make my child a doctor, a lawyer, and he will make us rich. It's vanity, nothing more. Your little boat goes west and you congratulate yourself, "What a navigator I am!" And then the wind blows you east.
Abdul's father, Karam Husain
The author Katherine Boo, draws you into her explosive, powerful, world of women, men and children, who spend their days and nights living in one of the worst slums of India. This is not a novel, there is no happy ending. These are real people, who live in world in which from the moment you open your eyes, till sleep overcomes you, life is a struggle. "Everything around us is roses" is how Abdul's younger brother MIrchi, put it. "And we're the shit in between'. There is very little of truth in their lives. Corruption, lies, bribery, filth, is every where in this slum community which borders the International Airport of India. They watch the planes bring the beautiful and the wealthy. Yet this is the place where they go to steal food, where they scavenge to find garbage which they can resell and earn a rupee or two. Yet they dream of a better tomorrow. They dream of love, education, a job, a place in country around them.
This is a book I will suggest that others read, that my book groups read and discuss.
Katherine Boo has used her writing skills to encourage each of us to open our eyes and view the global world, to see what's wrong and find a way to make a difference..somewhere.
Karen J. (Bremerton, WA)
Not easy to read, not easy to put down.
Some books carry me along, this one pulled. It was not easy to read, yet not easily put down. Poverty, corruption, racism, economic envy, brutal indifference toward human life pummel the inhabitants of Annawadi, Mumbai’s undercity, yet amazingly, in spite of the slum city’s parched soil of opportunity there exists pockets of hope and aspiration, nurturing a hope for a better life in some of its citizens. It is their indomitable spirit and stories that have humbled and continue to linger with me. I have been inspired by this book. It has given me much to think about. A good book for a book club.