We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access .
Behind the Beautiful Forevers Audiobook

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

Regular Price:$24.50
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

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 (1394 )
5 star
 (662)
4 star
 (411)
3 star
 (206)
2 star
 (71)
1 star
 (44)
Overall
4.2 (1211 )
5 star
 (604)
4 star
 (334)
3 star
 (178)
2 star
 (58)
1 star
 (37)
Story
4.3 (1202 )
5 star
 (659)
4 star
 (358)
3 star
 (120)
2 star
 (38)
1 star
 (27)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    serine 02-03-16
    serine 02-03-16 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    596
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    338
    166
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    46
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Uncovered horrors"

    This book shared important information that I am not subjected to in my daily life. I am glad to have read this story, to learn of the conditions in the slums of Mumbai, to understand the corrupt justice process that occurs there. I had a huge knowledge gap and this filled it.

    The author did a great job of helping the reader see how poor people can come to blame each other instead of those who oppress them (government or other people in charge). I could tell it was written by a journalist. Her account was extremely balanced, but at the same time, it lacked that emotional quality I was looking for. I found the matter of fact style a bit dry at times and confusing at other times. Without more of an emotional investment in the characters, it made it hard to keep in mind who was who, which made it difficult to follow the story.

    Overall though, such an important read!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nus SAINT PAUL, MN, United States 05-06-12
    Nus SAINT PAUL, MN, United States 05-06-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Amazing authenticity!"
    Where does Behind the Beautiful Forevers rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Devastating detail.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The description of Sunil ingratiating himself to the (catering?) security guards to gain preferred access to their trash.


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

    Survival with globalization.


    Any additional comments?

    I emigrated from India to the US over 30 years ago. I'm planning to return there for good soon. I had to authenticate the author's references and listen to her interviews on NPR and PBS to verify her claims. I intend to use this work to frame my home country since I've never known it in this manner!

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LSR Atlanta 04-02-12
    LSR Atlanta 04-02-12 Member Since 2016

    LSR

    HELPFUL VOTES
    40
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    22
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Beautiful Story"

    This was such a gripping account, I had to keep checking references to ensure that it was not fiction, or even based on a real story. The book is told in the third-person but such deep observations and presence that you even feel like you are right there, and the author must have been onsite more frequently than not, over the years. It was such a fascinating way of life to be told. Surprisingly, I did not have pity or disgust for the poverty and the way the families live in this common slum but, just the opposite. Most of the studied characters I could see rising upward, at least relatively speaking. They were enterprising, tireless, tried to pursue their education and advancement. It was really a fascinating study which made me wonder if this was really a necessary step in the evolution of developing countries and their people.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa M. Ide Fairfax, VA USA 01-23-16
    Lisa M. Ide Fairfax, VA USA 01-23-16
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Powerful"

    I started this book in hard copy, but when life kept getting in the way of my ability to find time to curl up with a good book, I turned to Audible to fill my commute hours with this masterpiece. (The narration was fantastic.) I actually started this book without knowing it is a work of nonfiction, and only realized it when I listened to the author's afterword. The most fantastic parts of this book, for me, are the respect the author shows for the characters and her restraint in how she describes the contrast of their lives from our lives and the lives of the people coming and going from the airport. She describes the lives and ambitions of each individual from a neutral place, without a hint of the patronization which could so easily and subconsciously pervade any depiction of lives in extreme poverty by one who is not. One of the most powerful moments in the book is when she takes a brief break from describing the tragedy that has turned two families against eachother to "listen in" on a Disney park executive's comments about how he just can't bring himself to visit a Universal theme park to check out the competition because he just can't stomach the idea of giving a penny to his competition. The author returns to the story of the families to describe how, despite the tragedy that has turned them into adversaries, they come together to help eachother fulfill a religious obligation. The contrast she creates with that brief snippet is so profound and moving, it haunted me for the rest of the book. Powerful read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    School Nurse Cindy WV 06-11-15 Member Since 2017

    I've been listening to audio books for years and have been an audible subscriber for ? 10 years maybe? A long time anyway.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    70
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    37
    22
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Too hard to finish"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Less is more


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Just too long


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

    Certainly a wonderful narrator with accents


    What character would you cut from Behind the Beautiful Forevers?

    If you highlight any character, fleshing them out either not at all or a bit more would be better.


    Any additional comments?

    It just bogged down. I really wanted something good to happen, even in those terrible slums. Too sad to bare.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 03-09-15
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 03-09-15 Member Since 2015

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    784
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    921
    494
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    56
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "DISPROPORTIONATE WEALTH"

    The seamy side of disproportionate wealth frequently appears in books. Some are classics of fiction like “The Grapes of Wrath”; others are modern fictions, apocryphal, and less renowned, like Aravind Adiga’s “White Tiger”. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” shows the ugly truth of a poorly regulated capitalist economy. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is a true story of modern India that exposes the seams of an economic system that widens and perpetuates a gap between haves and have-nots. India’s current economic system guarantees a permanent underclass, characterized by poverty, malnutrition, and disease. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is about Mumbai’s poor; written by a seasoned reporter, Katherine Boo.

    There is “No Exit” for the poverty-stricken Mumbai underclass. Future generations of the poor are guaranteed nothing but life, with little education and dwindling economic opportunity. The value of corruption is reinforced. The inner compass of human morality spins as schemes to defraud and grinding poverty guarantee an underclass existence in perpetual slums.

    Mumbai is a daunting example of how disproportionate wealth corrupts morality, undermines democracy, and smears the reputation of capitalist economies.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel 12-12-12
    Rachel 12-12-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "a periscope into a world that will humble you"
    What did you love best about Behind the Beautiful Forevers?

    This story is real, or very close to real. Descriptions of the lives of people in Annawadi were written in great, believable detail. In one way, the story makes you acknowledge just how much you have and how fortunate you are. In another way, it makes you feel inferior, of the amount of awareness and perseverance that the people in Annawadi have despite corruption, greed, and the weight of the caste system. This is a must read.


    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brandin Los Angeles, CA, United States 04-02-12
    Brandin Los Angeles, CA, United States 04-02-12 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
    65
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    37
    29
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Taking my 5 stars back for all other books reviewd"

    While reading this book...and now that I'm finished, I can't get it out of my mind. The real life characters of the story have taken hold of me & I feel like I'll never be the same again. Simply the best audiobook I've bought to date.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. 05-27-17
    K. 05-27-17 Member Since 2017
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Cahill-o'brien Seattle WA 05-24-17
    Barry Cahill-o'brien Seattle WA 05-24-17 Member Since 2017

    barryo

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    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

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.