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Publisher's Summary

National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2012
From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the 21st century’s great, unequal cities.
In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.
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 21st century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.
©2012 Katherine Boo (P)2012 Random House
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Critic Reviews

“Kate Boo’s reporting is a form of kinship. Abdul and Manju and Kalu of Annawadi will not be forgotten. She leads us through their unknown world, her gift of language rising up like a delicate string of necessary lights. There are books that change the way you feel and see; this is one of them. If we receive the fiery spirit from which it was written, it ought to change much more than that.” (Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of Random Family)
“I couldn’t put Behind the Beautiful Forevers down even when I wanted to—when the misery, abuse and filth that Boo so elegantly and understatedly describes became almost overwhelming. Her book, situated in a slum on the edge of Mumbai’s international airport, is one of the most powerful indictments of economic inequality I’ve ever read. If Bollywood ever decides to do its own version of The Wire, this would be it.” (Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed)
“A beautiful account, told through real-life stories, of the sorrows and joys, the anxieties and stamina, in the lives of the precarious and powerless in urban India whom a booming country has failed to absorb and integrate. A brilliant book that simultaneously informs, agitates, angers, inspires, and instigates.” (Amartya Sen, Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University, winner of the Nobel Prize in Econo)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Dr. on 06-14-12

An Antidote for Shantaram

Katherine Boo's book is a good antidote for Gregory David Roberts' Shantaran. Whereas Shantaram appears to view its Mumbai slum through some type of fantasy haze that is ultimately used to glorify its author, Boo's Mumbai slum is stark, unadorned, and filled with people who are barely surviving (or in many cases, not surviving). At times, I felt like a car driver who has been mesmerized by an accident on the side of the road - at other times I simply felt sad and wondered what drew me to this story. For me, this book represents another important facet of India - the conflict between Hindus and Muslims, poverty, corruption, and misery - that needs to be appreciated along with all of the other literary efforts to portray India. Although this is a grim story, it also highlights the grit, ingenuity, and perseverance of people who live on the edge.

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33 of 34 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Richard on 03-13-12

This Is What Real Poverty Looks Like

While Behind the Beautiful Forevers describes in specific detail life in a makeshift community neighboring the Mumbai India international airport, it explains what poverty looks like, feels like and how it shapes the lives of millions who live without any basic resources, including shelter, water and sanitation, throughout the world. Anyone living in, or are a policy maker in, a first world country should read this book if he or she wants to understand the privileges they take for granted.

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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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