This book is a little different from the other books I have reviewed so far. It is non-fiction. I first heard about this book from John Green who picked the book as a nerd fighter book club read (he speaks about the book in some of his vlogbrothers videos (1 and 2)). While reading it I thought it was a fictional book, but at the end it told about the process of documenting these peoples lives and I realized it was all real (which made it even better). The writer (Katherine Boo) spent 3 years in a slum in India called Annawadi, located close to Mumbai airport. She interviewed these people, lived with them and saw and experienced their lives.
What’s the book about?
The book tells the stories of a few of Annawadis inhabitants, mainly it follows Abdul, a muslim teenager who collects and recycles garbage and Asha, a woman climbing the social ladder by using the political corruption present in local government. In the act of following these two, the story encounters various other people with fascinating lives. The book follows their lives as Abdul is falsely accused of setting another woman on fire. It tells about the hopes and dreams of these people and how they try to make the best of their lives in a world still dominated by caste, religion, sex, power and corruption.
What did I think of it?
I really enjoyed this book. It gives a great insight into a slum. The story gives great background into the way the slums (or at least this slum) functions. It shows that a lot of charity money is corrupted, but even used in a corrupted way it still does some good. The book shows that everyone just tries to make the best with what they have got, there is always a way to live and a drive to live a little better. It is one of those books that will stay with you forever and will come back to you when you see things on the news about slums. What was great about the book was that it was told from the perspective of the people Katherine Boo interviewed, so it does feel like they have written the book. It also gives background to some of the things that happen, giving you the opportunity to better grasp what is happening.
Should you read it?
If you are interested in expending your horizon and perhaps understanding slum life a little better, then yes you should definitely read this book. If you rather read some fiction, then I suggest reading something else. The book is a must if you want to read about the real India and its slums, instead of understanding it from watching movies like Slumdog Millionaire. Of course India is much more then just its slums, however India is also not a country without them, so understanding and reading about it gives you a little more insight into this beautiful country that is growing so fast.
Book: Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Goodreads page
Writer: Katherine Boo
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