Behind the Beautiful Forevers is narrative of several family's lives in a Mumbai slum. The author takes and ethnographic approach to the research and as weaved as story that is harrowing and starkly realistic.
While overall this was a well written and exemplary effort, I think it is wildly overrated and I suspect the subject matter, not the end result of the work, is what makes it so popular.
Two things that I do applaud the book for, however, and in some ways could have been even more hard hitting on both. First, the rampant corruption of the Indian government from the highest offices to lowest, including the police, has a boot on the neck of India as a country. And the poorest of its citizens suffer the most from it. The level of corruption is horrific and the author details it here. Second, the sorry state of the judicial system and the disregard for the lowest classes is frightening. It's a sad, dysfunctional system.
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Doug Baker (cdbaker)
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2012: Katherine Boo spent three years among the residents of the Annawadi slum, a sprawling, cockeyed settlement of more than 300 tin-roof huts and shacks in the shadow of Mumbai’s International Airport. From within this “sumpy plug of slum” Boo unearths stories both tragic and poignant--about residents’ efforts to raise families, earn a living, or simply survive. These unforgettable characters all nurture far-fetched dreams of a better life. As one boy tells his brother: “Everything around us is roses. And we’re like the s**t in between.” ANew Yorkerwriter and recipient of a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur “Genius” grant, Boo’s writing is superb and the depth and courage of her reporting from this hidden world is astonishing. At times, it’s hard to believe this is nonfiction. --Neal Thompson