Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Behind the Beautiful Forever by Katherine Boo

Title: Behind the Beautiful Forever
Author: Katherine Boo
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: February 7, 2012
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a non-fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From "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 fifteen-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.

With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget."

My Two Cents:

"Behind the Beautiful Forevers" is one of those books that I have read a ton of rave reviews about. I'm trying to get more non-fiction in my reading diet so this book fit the bill. After reading this book, I can officially tell you that the rave reviews are definitely correct about this book. This book is a difficult read because of the subject matter but this book is such an important read. I truly believe that it is important to read books like this that make you a little more uncomfortable because they teach you more about the world.

Boo follows several people through their daily lives in one of the poorest slums, Annawadi, of the Indian city of Mumbai. Above all, most of the people that appear in this book are incredibly resourceful. In a place like India where the caste system is still very much alive and well, there are so many people in this community that are using everything they have in order to get out from under this system. You have to respect them for that. It's hard. Some of the people in the book are less scrupulous than others in how they choose to make their way through life.

Boo is a reporter and an American and therefore obviously, an outsider to this community that she is writing about. One thing I always fear when outsiders are writing about a particular place or a particular group of people is that the book will be made up of the author's insertions and judgements, which is something that I would not read. Opinions only get you so far in trying to understand an issue. I appreciated that in this book, Boo refrains from making judgements. She is simply reporting on what it is that is happening in Annawadi and what the people are doing. Boo leaves the conclusions to the readers.

Again, this book is a difficult read. I can not begin to understand what it must be like to live in a place like Annawadi. Boo gives us a picture into what it must have been live in a place like this. This is definitely a worthy read!



  1. This does sound wonderful! Like you, I'm not much of a non-fiction reader -- or, rather, my non-fiction is limited to medieval history -- but I want to read "Behind the Beautiful Forevers." And don't you just love the title?

    1. Just wait until you read and figure out where the title comes from... it makes the title even better!!!

  2. I've been wanting to read this for awhile but I'm afraid of the tough subject matter. Your review puts it back at the top of my TBR!


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