National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2012
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 15-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.
"[An] exquisitely accomplished first book. Novelists dream of defining characters this swiftly and beautifully, but Ms. Boo is not a novelist. She is one of those rare, deep-digging journalists who can make truth surpass fiction, a documentarian with a superb sense of human drama. She makes it very easy to forget that this book is the work of a reporter…. Comparison to Dickens is not unwarranted." (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)
"The book plays out like a swift, richly plotted novel…. Boo gives even the broadest themes (the collateral damage of globalization, say) a human face. And there are half a dozen characters here so indelible - so swept up in impossible dreams and schemes - that they call Dickens and Austen to mind." (Entertainment Weekly)
"Must read. Katherine Boo Behind the Beautiful Forevers. A Mumbai slum understood and imagined as never before in language of intense beauty." (Salman Rushdie)
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Vibrant tale of life in a Mumbai shanty slum
Great book, with interesting twist at the end.
Characters overcoming, and succumbing to adversity. In a hard, but colorful world.
Last man in tower by Aravind Adiga. It is also set in India, and deals with human interactions, and the how relationships are distorted by money, greed, and jealousy.
This book is very well written. I could see, smell, and taste the slums. I felt like I knew the inhabitants personally by the end.
- Louis Hall