Mark Petrick'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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Jan 20, 13

Read from December 30, 2012 to January 12, 2013

I spent many months in Mumbai over a few years around the turn of the century. I've spent days walking though some of the slums of the city working on a photography project. But, nothing I've done has come close to the creating the intimate portrayal of lives challenged over time that Katherine Boo has achieved in this book. Her tenacity and dedication to telling a complete and honest story is remarkable. She is a terrific writer - it's surprising that this is her first book or that she is not better known, even though she is a MacArthur Fellow.

India let's the visitor in in stages (as do most places, I suppose). The first time you go you're a tourist, overwhelmed or overjoyed (or both) by the excess of everything -- images, people, colors, smells, the heat. You visit a few more times and the exotic veneer starts to peel away to reveal something grittier. The complexity of India is enthralling (a bit like the United States in the breadth of diverse ways of living), but it takes time to get beneath its surface. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is like a droplet of water on a leaf, a tiny lens magnifying what seems to be an insignificant bit of foliage, but turns out to be a microscope into a world of real human lives lived in the punishing circumstances of Mumbai's urban poverty.
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Reading Progress

12/30/2012 "One of the best, of the several good, books about life in Mumbai -- so far it's brilliantly written. This is literary non-fiction at its best."

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