Grace'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
Jan 16, 2013

it was amazing
Read in January, 2013

just finished the most amazing, unsettling book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo, about life in a Mumbai slum. The author is a New Yorker reporter, married to an Indian citizen, who lives part time in Mumbai. The book was meticulously researched over 4 years. It's somewhat controversial because she spends four years researching but not intervening and needless to say, many things that happen to the slum dwellers are not pretty. But I heard her discuss this on Fresh Air and she said the urge to intervene, particularly in the lives of the children, was often overwhelming but that the myth that problems can be solved through the outside, one-time reaching in with money and other short-term help is a pernicious myth that she needed to dispell. Indeed, the cynical way well-meaning charities are exploited to feather the nests of corrupt officials is a major theme. Instead, change requires major shifts in power, which can only happen when a light shines on the corruption. The people who's lives she followed understood this and all of them were open and unsparing in letting her observe their lives, which are real and gripping but not at all romantic and seldom heroic. She honors them all with the painstaking effort of four years of meticulous research and steady, clear eyed observation. I feel reading is such a necessary but deeply personal activity that I never join book clubs and while I may recommend books, I never tell people, you must read this book. But this book awakened despair at the hardened corruption and inequalities of our world (this is Mumbai, but also Nairobi, Detroit, even Indianapolis), but also a strong admiration for the resilience of the human spirit. If you haven't already done so, you must read this book!

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