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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Exceptional translation of astounding research
Highly rated but have listened to many exceptional books
Understanding what survival means in a Mumbai slum AND Katherine Boo's note at the end that contextualises so much.
Abdul - who kept wanting a life that meant more
Impossible to forget