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
    Paperback:
    Apr 2014, 288 pages

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Amber B. (East Sparta, OH) (12/28/11)

Heartbreaking…important…memorable
Katherine Boo’s Behind the beautiful forevers: life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity reads like fiction but is a remarkable account of several families that Boo followed intensely for several years. The stories she tells woke me up at night. It’s amazingly well-written but certainly heavy and overwhelming. Despite being well-read and reasonably well-traveled, it reminded me how little I still know about the rest of the world… and how we view each other. Books like this change your perspective and reminded me that everyone has a story… to look deeper… to not look away when I encounter something that is difficult. It reminded me how corrupt many places in the world are, how much more is needed than money. I will be thinking about this book for a long time!
Anita P., Administrator, Play Book Tag on Shelfari (12/28/11)

An Important Book; Excellent for Book Clubs
Reporter Katherine Boo gives us an important and eye opening narrative of four years of life in a slum of Mumbai. Her book illustrates the day to day existence of people who must contend with incredible corruption and lack of safety in their daily lives in a way that helps the reader truly understand and empathize with them. By doing so, the author shines a bright light on the sheer impossibility of the lives of these Indians. You can't help but admire their ingenuity in the face of absolutely no clear path to a better life.

Unfortunately, the book missed the opportunity to truly move the reader emotionally. The narrative was strongest when it evoked the specific details of slum life and the effects of corruption of India; it wavered when the focus was on the inner life of its residents.

Interestingly, I really was of two minds when I finished this book. On one hand, I think it is an important book. One that would be absolutely outstanding for book clubs. On the other hand, it was a non-fiction story that reads like fiction, and unfortunately that conferred upon it an expectation that it would also be emotionally moving. Although the characters face absolutely horrible circumstances, somehow I didn't feel I really knew them well enough to care about the specific individuals ... I was more blown away by the circumstances of the slums as a whole and of the horrendous situation that exists today. It could have easily been a five star book if the author had been able to better tap into the "stars" of her story's emotional status. Or perhaps she did, but just wasn't able to get those emotions on the page. She definitely tries to do it - - the words are there - - but somehow my feelings just didn't follow (as they did in say, Unbroken).
Power Reviewer Lani S. (Narberth, PA) (12/27/11)

Clarity in disparity
First, I must declare my conflict of interest. I am in love with India, have visited 4 times and spent time in the Dharavi slum. I thought I understood intellectually the plight of the poor and disenfranchised but nothing prepared me for the emotional wallop of Katherine Boo's reportage. With a clinical eye, she brought these characters to life, with all their superstitions, powerlessness, envy and indeed their humanity. However, I gave it a 4 instead of a 5 because I got seriously depressed and saddened reading this and had to put it down frequently. I urge you, though, to plunge ahead,to explore the ideas and values that are presented which truly transcend this specific region, ethnicity and culture...just beware; it's very unsettling.

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