Haven't had one of these in awhile... Deep Thoughts From Damp Tresses! For our latest installment, I was inspired by the Nerdfighter Book Club to read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.
It was a single instant while reading notes from the author that brought this story together for me. It was the moment when Katherine Boo revealed that this story of "Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity" was, in fact, a true story. I had read the entire book as literary fiction and a chill ran down my spine as I realized that Boo spent time with Abdul and his family as they navigated the broken and infuriating Mumbai justice system.
In the end, Boo created a portrayal of the residents of Annawadi that was without sympathy or romanticism. She displayed the people of Mumbai and all of their flaws in a way that made them more relatable and accessible as characters. People, regardless of their social status, are dirty and imperfect and I love that there is finally an author who doesn't paint a picture of poverty that makes the impoverished out to be saints.
Synopsis: 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 twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.