Ellen'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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's review
Nov 27, 2013

really liked it
Read from November 17 to 27, 2013

Anyone who decides to read this book hopefully doesn't have too many rosy illusions about India or its slums, because if you do, well...have you never paid attention to news? At any rate, the book doesn't do them many favors.

An extreme optimist might find the book uplifting, maybe? Because the Annawadi residents are living life the best they can given that their livelihoods revolve around garbage, prostitution, and playing the corrupt system of government and nonprofits? Maybe?

Or, for a pessimist like me, the book is depressing as hell. The author specifically avoids portraying any one of her subjects as heroes or villains or setting up moral judgement of their actions, and that's a good thing. But the larger system of poverty in which they exist is really bleak. And pointing out the obvious diversion of practically all charitable monies makes it hard for those of us with Western privilege to feel like there's anything to be done about it.

Katherine Boo has written a gorgeous narrative based on years of dedication and immersion in Mumbai. If the people she writes about were fictional characters it would be easier to feel good about reading this book. But with real people existing as she describes without much hope of escape offered, I don't really know what to do about this one. Maybe that's the point?

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Reading Progress

11/17/2013 marked as: currently-reading
11/27/2013 marked as: read

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