My next review will cover the book entitled “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity” written by the, in my opinion, great Katherine Boo.
Before I begin my actual review, I would like to start with a quick disclaimer. This book is not for the faint of heart nor for those who believe that all books should conclude with a happy ending tied up with a pretty little bow. If those are the things you’re seeking, you may want to skip this read. However, if you’re interested in the lives of those much, much difference and in many ways, worse than nearly everyone in America or those who have a general interest in different religions and lifestyles around the world, this could be the selection for you.
“Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is the account of journalist Katherine Boo as she spends three years living amongst the poorest in the world. Her work is based in the slums of Mumbai, India; more specifically Annawadi. Annawadi is a makeshift community where the families featured in the book build their homes. Strangely enough, Annawadi is set in the shadows of some of the most luxurious hotels of India and the airport, where the poor citizens watch as the wealthy leave the sadness of Annawadi behind.
As you can imagine, the densely populated slums do not offer much in the way of jobs, housing, food or education. While people living in the slums dream of such luxuries, acquiring them is another story. Unfortunately that story involves greed, corruption and crime. With so few opportunities for so, so many people, competition is fierce in the worse sense of the word. Fights, suicides and murder are common in these communities. As Boo witnessed some of these atrocities first-hand, she is well-educated and brutally honest regarding the horrors of living in Mumbai through her writing.
Boo follows the lives of a few different families during her time in Mumbai. Knowing that this extremely well-written author experienced real life in this rough lifestyle, her writing is all the more believable and frightening. As a writer for The New Yorker, Boo’s book is not for someone looking for a quick read. The book as well as the very real people in the book, deserve the reader’s undivided attention. And frankly without it, you will miss the subtleties that are crucial to trying to understand the complexities of a world most of us will never experience.
Personally, I would recommend this great read to those with an open mind, willing to let that mind go, sometimes, to dark places. If more people read and appreciated books like these, I’d like to believe we’d keep judgments to ourselves and realize that in essence, we are all striving for the same things.
“Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is a new favorite of this writer. I recommend it when friends are looking for something real and raw – a book that speaks of and to humanity. Like I said, don’t expect a happy ending. Instead, prepare for a gritty, honest, straight to the point writing that will leave you more knowledgeable and much, much more appreciative. If this book does not leave you feeling appreciative for what you have, nothing ever will. Embrace this treasure for all that it is.
Until next time, keep reading!