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Monday, November 11, 2013

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

After winning the 2012 National Book Award for Non-Fiction, of course I picked it up. This is Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and  Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.

A young man, his father, and his older sister are arrested for beating and setting fire to a one-legged woman in the slums of Mumbai. But this case is not as clear cut as it initially sounds. The people in question are neighbors, and the woman was their next door neighbor who set herself on fire. How did this all get so tangled? It's a story you can only understand from the beginning--and through the lens of a life so many of us will never see. Right on the other side of the airport wall in Mumbai is the Annawadi slum, and the course of events over three years are chronicled in Boo's tale of life, work, and just trying to stay afloat.

Holy moly, there is not a single shred of doubt in my mind as to why this book took home the National Book Award. It reads like an incredibly thoughtful and intense novel, but it is so much more than that. I had to remind myself several times throughout the book that this was something that truly happened, not just an intricate and deeply moving tale weaved by an ingenious mind. It could have easily been that.

But as they say, truth is always stranger than fiction.

I was so taken with this book from the very beginning. Boo sets up this story with a hook that grabs you from the moment you crack open that cover. Abdul and his family, his neighbors, the crooks and the thieves, all of these people make up the story that you will read. (And you will read it; links below to buy the book for yourself.) It breaks my heart that this kind of corruption exists, and with it there is pain, suffering, and a desperate daily fight to keep your head above water. It is astounding and amazing and stabbingly painful to inhale these stories.

This book was absolutely incredible and is a must-read for your upcoming edification.

Get this amazing piece of work for yourself. Kindle on left, hard copy on right:


  1. It's a rare author who can write serious journalism but keep it interesting. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about this book.

    Charmaine Smith (More Information on Alaskan Fly Fishing Lodge Hoodoo River)

    1. I know! It was really something else. Thanks for stopping in, Charmaine!