Unflinching in its portrayal of the slums of Mumbai, Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a peek into one of the most marginalized and ignored parts of Indian society. Its brutal anecdotes of impoverished residents not getting by without having a hand in the local corruption will illicit feelings of helplessness in the reader.
Even the shred of hope and decency in the form of nonprofit work in the area is cut out from underneath you as Boo informs you straight on that most nonprofits exist as a front for money laundering, quickly taking opportunistic pictures of children "learning" so that the flow of cash continues into local officials' pockets. At the same time, though, Boo's forthright narrative forces us to consider how we can continue to go about our daily routines when everything we just read and more is happening unceasingly on the other side of the globe. What can we possibly do, the book practically begs, without dropping into sentimentality. Boo doesn't offer any answers, but merely records what she's witnessed in a compassionate and precise way. What can we possibly do?