Russell Fox'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
Dec 31, 2013

it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in January, 2013 — I own a copy

A powerfully written, devastatingly detailed account of four years in an Mumbai slum. For all the dramatic twists and turns of the many stories which Katherine Boo reports on, the closest parallel I could think of upon completing the book was the film "Contagion"--which was, of course, an expertly shot and acted film about a fictional catastrophe, but one which quite purposefully stayed clinical and undramatic, despite the horrors it showed. That is what I think Boo did here, and it's a remarkable accomplishment: to tell several impossibly rich and provocative and despairing stories, and to do it in a way where, at very step, she is speaking foremost to our heads, not our hearts. Which is not to say this book won't make you weep; her documenting of the depressing fates of Kalu, Meena, or Abdul himself may very well cause your soul to ache. But if that happens, it's because of your own sense of empathy, not because Boo pulls on your heart-strings. She wanted to understand this foreign world of desperate poverty, and some small glimmer of true understanding, not just compassion, is what the book strives (I think successfully) for.

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