behind the beautiful forevers

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

author:  Katherine Boo

genre:  Non-fiction, poverty, slums, Mumbai, corruption

suggested by: John G.

dates read: September 24th – September 29th

review: 3.5 out of 5 stars

summary:  Annawadi is a slum in Mumbai, technically owned by the Airports Authority of India.  Many children drop out of school to help their families by working, breaking rocks, collecting and selling garbage and recyclables, and any other odd jobs they can pick up.  Written in a novel format, Boo mainly follows two families, the Husains, a family of eleven, and the Waghekars, run by Asha who is trying to become the first female slumlord.  Life has its ups and downs for the slum dwellers and for three years, Boo documents it all.

personal thoughts: This was too depressing.  There seemed to be no relief for these families, which I guess is part of the point, to show how much change is needed in places like this.  It seemed that everyone was corrupt, from the slum dwellers, to the police, to the hospital workers.  No one was above asking for bribes.  I just got tired of reading about the suicides, the backstabbing, the awful way everyone lived and treated each other.  I wanted to see just one person rise about their terrible conditions and do well.  I suppose that’s real life for you; I need to read a happy book.

favorite quotes:
“Annawadians now spoke of better lives casually, as if fortune were a cousin arriving on Sunday, as if the future would look nothing like the past.” p. xvii

“The clamminess around his collar seemed imperfectly correlated to the weather.” p. 50

“when they spoke, it was with the curious formality of people who shared the understanding that much of what was said did not matter, and that much of what mattered could not be said.” p. 172

“Among the poor, there was no doubt that instability fostered ingenuity, but over time the lack of a link between effort and result could become debilitating.” p. 219

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