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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

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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Reads like fiction.

I loved this book. Excellent storytelling honoring the complexity of lived experience and the entrenched reality of poverty set in a country I love. Highly recommend.

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  • Story

Wish there were a sequel

Fascinating look inside the lives of people living in a Mumbai slum near the airport. The author, a white American, is a journalist. She does a good job of documenting everyday life in the slum with journalistic precision while still keeping a novelistic flow. I really cared about the characters and wish there were a follow-up to tell what happened in the years after this was written.

[I listened to this as an audio book performed by Sunil Mathotra]

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Like a novel

This is an amazing book, it's all real but it reads like a novel. Highly recommended!

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  • Story

Interesting, but lacks a plots. Narrator did a great job

Although it was interesting, I found the book to be without a mic of a plot. Didn't keep me intrigued. The narrator did an excellent job.

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  • Story

didn't meet my expectation. m

What disappointed you about Behind the Beautiful Forevers?

not much a story.

Would you ever listen to anything by Katherine Boo again?

Never.

What three words best describe Sunil Malhotra’s performance?

clear, peaceful.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

boringness.

Any additional comments?

the book described the miserable life and miserable world, then what ?

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  • Story
  • K.
  • 05-27-17

Reporting that reads like literature

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

You can't listen to this in all one sitting--it's pretty heavy material. I would listen to it for about an hour each day on my way to/leaving work and any more would have likely affected my mood throughout the day.

Any additional comments?

I overall really enjoyed how this story was told--it's nonfiction, but it reads very much like a novel. It's skillful, and while I worry that there might be some embellishments and liberties, it overall seems like the piece was very well-researched in the writer's 4 year's time in the slum. I just wish the author's note would have been provided at the beginning of the book to give it more context--halfway through listening, I was convinced that the book couldn't be a nonfiction book like i had initially thought when I had purchased it. After hearing the author's note about the events being truthful, the deaths and events that happened to the families that are focused on in this book hit me all at once, and it was a little much.

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  • Story

A little too depressing

having spent a little time with the poor in India living in the small homes a lot of this story is accurate but the author leaves out a lot of the simple joy that also exists all be it brief. I found these people to posess a wicked sense of humor. unfortunately alcoholism is also a real scourge in these areas leaving a lot of wo men who do not drink for the most part to do most of the work which in India is a double burden

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reader is great

chapters flew by because the reader was good. made a difference in experience. ending seems rushed.

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A beautiful, painful, authentic experience!!!

you will be transported into a world otherwise unavailable to most of us from the West. Tough, beautiful, at times painful, read.

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yes!

used this Audio to help me finish up my sociology class helped thankyou very much!