Bonnie_blu's Reviews > Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
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F_50x66
's review
Mar 05, 12

bookshelves: history, current_events

I was excited about reading this book after reading the reviews; however, it did not live up to the kudos. I found it disjointed and strangely unaffecting for most of its length, and even boring some of the time. I was raised in great poverty, and have a first-hand understanding of its effects. Extreme poverty usually strips "civilized" behavior from individuals and groups. When resources are scarce to non-existent, humans generally resort to whatever means necessary to ensure their survival. Selfishness (for oneself or one's family) is often the only thing standing between survival and death. Poverty without hope destroys humanity.

Boo highlights the lives of several Mumbai slum inhabitants. She explicitly describes the corruption rampant throughout Indian society and how it acts to squash hope among the poorest of the poor. While some of her interviewees have hope of escaping the slum, none do so in the book, and as she shows, their future chances are extremely slim. So why was the book unaffecting? Perhaps because Boo wrote it as though it were a novel. I had to continuously remind myself that this was the story of real individuals and not characters in a story. This resulted in difficulty becoming invested in the characters and remaining immersed in the book. I was lucky in that I was removed from poverty before it could destroy my spirit, but its effects linger in other ways. My heart goes out to the Mumbai slum dwellers, but I fear little can be done without a major overhaul to Indian society - - beginning with true education for all of its people. Educated people will not settle for less than a fair chance.

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