Reader reviews and comments on Behind the Beautiful Forevers, plus links to write your own review.

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

by Katherine Boo

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2012, 288 pages
    Apr 2014, 288 pages

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There are currently 35 reader reviews for Behind the Beautiful Forevers
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Darlene C. (Woodstock, il) (01/26/12)

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) (01/25/12)

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) (01/23/12)

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.
Viqui G. (State College, PA) (01/22/12)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
This book encapsulate the lives of typical Annawadi residents, a slum next to the Mumbai airport. Their lives are difficult and very stressful but as Sunil, one of the street boys ponders, that even though he has a bad life, "a boy's life could still matter to himself".
We learn how the most disenfranchised members of this slum are able to survive and even flourish: Abdul the garbage sorter, Kalu, the scrap -metal thief, and Manju a college student who can get a degree by memorization or "by-hearting" her lessons. However, when tragedy strikes them it is very difficult for these slum residents to overcome adversity.
This book certainly made me realize that the pervasiveness of corruption is in all aspects of life in India. Bribes are a way of life and accepted as such. Even the Indian criminal justice system was a market and in Abdul's words "innocence and guilt could be bought and sold like a kilo of polyurethane bags". However some of these residents also have hope of improvement in their lives, and this hope is what motivates them, even when their conditions are deplorable. Other residents lose their hope and commit suicide.
Overall, this "narrative nonfiction" reads like a novel. Katherine Boo has depicted the residents of Annawadi in a sympathetic yet realistic manner. She has researched this community with thoroughness and imparts her information in a very readable prose.
Liz C. (Kalamazoo, MI) (01/21/12)

In Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo gives readers a riveting glimpse into the lives of the residents of Annawadi, a makeshift slum near the Mumbai airport. Boo artfully portrays the lives of people living in circumstances I couldn’t imagine. This book impressed me on many levels. Boo spent over 3 years with the people she writes about: Abdul Husain, a Muslim, teenage garbage picker; Zehrunisa, his mother; Asha, a middle-aged mother with aspirations of improving her position in life by taking on the role of slum lord; Manju, Asha’s daughter, who attends a college of sorts, and Fatima, the Hussains’ neighbor whose actions set in motion a tragedy for both families. The end result is narrative nonfiction at its finest and a book you won’t soon forget.
Charlene M. (Murrells Inlet, SC) (01/20/12)

Beautiful Forevers
Interesting look at the underside of a caste society that I will never experience. Ms. Boo has written a story richly speckled with pathos & the humaness of the invisible life in India.
Carolyn A. (Sarasota, FL) (01/19/12)

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.
Carm D. (Omaha, NE) (01/19/12)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
This book was so well written and well researched. I really had no idea about the sub-society that exists in Mumbai and probably other large cities in India. The only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is that it made me so sad! I had to read a chapter and then walk away for a day or two before I could continue. I am wiser and more compassionate for having read this book, and for that I am grateful to Ms Boo for writing it.

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