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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 (1519 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Lyn Hansen Palme 02-26-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Engaging read"

    Reports on a world few would want to experience yet is gripping and fascinating in its investigation. This is as much a mapping of human nature as a summary of a modern city. Will lend a cogent understanding to the machinations of Indian poverty and city life. Do not miss author's explanation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elaine 09-11-14
    Elaine 09-11-14

    I'm a country potter, gardener, flute player and tin tinker living with my husband, an electrical engineer & cabinet maker.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hard to think about, painful to have in the world"

    I've spent some time in India, China, Peru, Cambodia where pockets of poverty are more than a few blocks long. Poor areas are as different from one another as wealthy areas might be but they all have roots of corruption that intertwine and feed the systems, perpetuating the problems and delaying the solutions. This book is difficult to listen to when one engages the mind in a what if this was me situation.
    It is well written and well performed. The situations are ones we should all be aware of.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donald Stratford, PE, Canada 05-25-14
    Donald Stratford, PE, Canada 05-25-14 Member Since 2002

    stephens1414

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    "Litany of horrors"

    Well written with convincing characterization of people and place.
    My complaint is that the constant emphasis is on the horrors of life for these people.
    The unjustness is noted in seemingly ever aspect of life.
    Yes we who live in so much better conditions need to know but there is too much of
    the "Behind" and not enough of the "Beautiful Forevers".
    More subtlety or write a sociological essay.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan River Forest, IL, United States 03-15-14
    Susan River Forest, IL, United States 03-15-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Another time"
    What disappointed you about Behind the Beautiful Forevers?

    Nothing. Powerful. Will read at a different time.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Didnt finish the book


    What three words best describe Sunil Malhotra’s voice?

    Didn't start the book


    What character would you cut from Behind the Beautiful Forevers?

    Not sure


    Any additional comments?

    None

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian Tampa, FL 02-04-14
    Brian Tampa, FL 02-04-14 Member Since 2017
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    "Standard good book"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I felt this was a standard good book, good read/listen. I have actually been to Mumbai and the slums so I feel that enhanced the listening experience. Good story though, hopefully it brings some attention to an often forgotten/overlooked demographic in India.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin 12-27-13
    Robin 12-27-13
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    "Hated it. Finally gave up."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    This book has no plot that carries through the book - or at least not a strong enough one to sustain a storyline. There is a plethora of exceedingly depressing characters with few, if any, redeeming characteristics. Life is too short for this type of book for me.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    The Goldfinch


    Which character – as performed by Sunil Malhotra – was your favorite?

    Honestly, I couldn't keep anyone straight - that was part of the problem.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Behind the Beautiful Forevers?

    The book jumps in time, which further adds to the confusion for the reader. I don't even know where to begin.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anna Karenina Dallas, TX, United States 12-05-13
    Anna Karenina Dallas, TX, United States 12-05-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Absolutely awesome"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. The book is incredibly enlightening as well as engrossing.


    What other book might you compare Behind the Beautiful Forevers to and why?

    A Fine Balance, the novel by Rohinton Mistry. Only this is all real.


    Have you listened to any of Sunil Malhotra’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I haven't listen to any other, but he's fantastic on this audiobook.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    There are no "tidbits"--everything is important! The most eye-opening parts of the book are about corruption, which is ubiquitous.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie T Cotati, CA United States 10-18-13
    Debbie T Cotati, CA United States 10-18-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Beautifully written"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Behind the Beautiful Forevers to be better than the print version?

    Probably. I think at times, it could be kind of dry in the print verson. The narration made it seem more like a novel than nonfiction.


    Any additional comments?

    This was one of those books that I had to kind of make myself stick with it. It got somewhat repetative at points, and was a little hard to follow because of all the different names. But it's also a book that has kind of stuck with me, that I keep flashing back to, especially when I see reports about slums in India. I feel like I have more of an empathy for the people.I wish that the author's description of how she was able to write the book was at the beginning, rather than at the end. It was fascinating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shantanu Sharma Washington, DC 10-04-13
    Shantanu Sharma Washington, DC 10-04-13 Member Since 2013

    Happy Man

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    "Sad, depressing and yet hopeful"
    What did you love best about Behind the Beautiful Forevers?

    The characters in the book.I'm from India and I was fortunate to have effectively won the "birth lottery". But poverty is all around and just like in the US, there is a tendency of the well off to blame the poor for being poor. The poor are an inconvenience, a blight, a sorry spectacle that mars the vision of a more prosperous India. Books like these humanize them and but for the circumstances of their existence, they are like anyone else with hopes, aspirations, fears, vices, etc. I think the author did an excellent job of describing their lives without judgement or melodrama. This book isn't entertainment, or "poverty porn" along the lines of The Slumdog Millionaire. It is very hard to listen to and very hard to hold back tears as we learn about how hard the characters struggle to get by and get stymied by the very people who are supposed to help them. It made me very angry and very sad. And yet, the fact that the fire of aspiration continues to burn bright and the desire to break free remains supreme fills you with hope for the characters and the country at large.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shaddraq 08-21-13
    Shaddraq 08-21-13 Member Since 2014

    lock80

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    "A mass of sorrow in India"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Behind the Beautiful Forevers to be better than the print version?

    I am a member of a book club. I sometimes forget why I belong to it because I really like my vampire books. This book is the reason. I would not have read this book if it did not show up on the monthly list. It tell a true story of life in India. The characters are real. You feel for their plight. You hope for them. It is a travesty they live like they do. I now have a better understanding of a place I will never visit. I wish at the end of the book there was a suggestion of how to help or what would help this society as a whole.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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