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Behind the Beautiful Forevers Audiobook

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

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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

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (1225 )
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  •  
    jdavisstein California 05-14-13
    jdavisstein California 05-14-13
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    "A Masterpiece"

    This audiobook offers an extraordinary reading experience!

    The images, characters and language of a slum in Mumbai are brilliantly captured by a journalist at the top of her game.

    The actor's facility with accents and language and different voices clarified the listening experience and actually enhanced a great book.

    This story offers an entirely new perspective to someone who is unfamiliar with India, or desperate, soul killing poverty for that matter. It is terribly sad on one level, but written and read with so much life and power it becomes electrifying, as compelling as a novel.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sharlyn Lafayette, Co, United States 04-27-13
    sharlyn Lafayette, Co, United States 04-27-13 Member Since 2016
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    "Just too despairing"
    Any additional comments?

    I had hopes to embrace the human condition and my capacity, but try as I might, I just couldn't bring myself to finish the book. I struggled with this because I work in the field of addictions and see tragedy often enough. But there is no hope other than a bleak existence. It was so depressing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Al San Francisco, CA 03-12-13
    Al San Francisco, CA 03-12-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Great Book"

    masterful and epic story of life in slums and what poor people have to do to survive on a daily basis

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle Racine, WI, United States 03-08-13
    Michelle Racine, WI, United States 03-08-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Unbelievably Good Non-fiction"

    Behind the Beautiful Forevers is certainly one of the best books I have ever listened to. The stories of the individuals are completely engrossing. But what makes the book so compelling, and so valuable, is the context in which the stories take place. You will not look at the global economy or India itself in quite the same way after this book. In particular there is a new understanding of, and perhaps tolerance (perhaps frustration) of the official corruption which exists in India.
    The book is not uplifting, and in many instances is depressing. However the ironic humor of the author and the wry observations of her and the characters make it very enjoyable. The reading is outstanding and contributes substantially to the enjoyment of the audiobook.

    It most reminds me of some of the Indian tragedies, like A Fine Balance by Mistry.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    katherine STATE COLLEGE, PA, United States 02-26-13
    katherine STATE COLLEGE, PA, United States 02-26-13
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    "Incredible story telling"
    What did you love best about Behind the Beautiful Forevers?

    It takes you to another country. You feel as if you know the characters.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The slum dwellers really become persons of interest to you. They are three-dimensional human beings you care about. And when they suffer, you actually feel for them. The author is quite exceptional in transporting her readers to Mumbai in the 1990s.


    What about Sunil Malhotra’s performance did you like?

    No difficulty with names, places, etc.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Micro-economies and the price of global capitalism in the developing world.


    Any additional comments?

    No, I recommend the audiobook to all my friends. I have not actually read the book but heard about it from a friend. Then, I listened to it, and I was really captivated. It's marvelous!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    TERESA United States 01-23-13
    TERESA United States 01-23-13 Member Since 2010

    Renaissance woman

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    "truth more compelling than fiction"

    This is a very listenable hybrid of actual events and people with the narrative voice of a novel. I truly couldn't turn it off once I'd started.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nina Beaconsfield, QC, Canada 01-08-13
    Nina Beaconsfield, QC, Canada 01-08-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Well written and cinematic but depressing"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Two things - 1) understand that it needs realism but it was all disaster, corruption and struggle all the way through. Would have really liked a little "hope" thrown in there too. 2) Would have liked a stronger story thread - chopping and changing between so many characters constantly left me a little lost, especially when listening in small chunks.


    What does Sunil Malhotra bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Great voices, accents, gave atmosphere and realism to the story.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michele Fair Lawn, New Jersey, United States 11-01-12
    Michele Fair Lawn, New Jersey, United States 11-01-12
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    "Must-listen, even for non-fiction skeptics"

    Amazing story & storytelling. The cast of characters in this book is so well-conveyed, and the writing is so good that it is easy to forget that this is a true story. Which makes it all the more incredible. Narration is well-done. Overall a good listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R 10-22-12
    R 10-22-12

    Reader

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    "Bold, seering journalism and writing"

    It is easy to forget that one is reading a work of nonfiction with Beyond the Beautiful Forevers. Katherine Boo's writing is so vivid, her storytelling so precise, her insights eerily telephathic, or so it seems, that one gets quickly enveloped into this story of the ruthless struggle for life, death — and brief, aching glimpses of a better life — that these slum residents endure day after day. I am amazed by this book, by Boo, by her three years living in the slum, and by the horrors she depicts of those who are among the poorest in our unjust and inequitable world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Walter Valley Village, CA, United States 10-09-12
    Walter Valley Village, CA, United States 10-09-12 Member Since 2011

    teachertony

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    "Crushingly sad and pessimistic"

    Boo is a Pulitzer prize winner and I’ve had pretty luck with them (Ava’s Man, The Bridge at San Luis Rey.) She shows us the daily lives of the residents of Anawadi, a slum hard by glitzy Mumbai International Airport and a sewage lake.

    This tale is relentlessly grim. The characters live in degradation which the poorest resident of the USA would find intolerable (the sewage lake being the prime example). Several of the residents are enterprising and amazingly hard-working. Abdul, a young Muslim trash dealer and sometime protag, spends endless hours at the soul-crushingly tedious work of sorting garbage for resale to recyclers. He is incarcerated and beaten for a killing that the authorities know was a suicide. Every person of authority who becomes involved in the case, be it doctor, coroner, police officer or other, is motivated solely by the desire to extract the maximum bribe possible from the family. This is far from the only tragedy/travesty of the book.

    The story is told by an omniscient narrator as in fiction. How was the reporting done? Was Boo really listening to every conversation she relates? Her tale is fascinating and reading quite competent. Finally, though, I couldn’t take any more. In the last year or so I’ve visited the U.S. Great Depression (A Secret Gift), famine in China (The Good Earth), and general misery in North Korea (Nothing to Envy). In the U.S. the misery was lightened by generosity and shared suffering; in China by shared suffering, initiative and the passage of time; and in North Korea maybe not at all. In Forevers the poverty is bad enough but it floats in a sewage lake of brutality and corruption. I may just have hit poverty fatigue. I bailed about 2/3 of the way through.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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