Check It Out!

Staff recommendations and reviews from the Plainfield Public Library

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

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This nonfiction work from a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist reports on a Mumbai slum or “undercity,” and the people who struggle every day to make a living and feed their families. The book starts out with Abdul Hussain hiding in his shed from the police, who are looking to arrest him because a neighbor’s claim that he lit her on fire. The book then goes back and tells the story leading up to this event.

Abdul and his family of eleven live in a hut in the slum of Annawadi where just over the wall is Mumbai’s beautiful international airport and glitzy hotels. Abdul picks through trash for recyclables which he can return for a very small amount of money. This is grueling and unpleasant work for very little compensation. The garbage he buys is from other scavengers in his slum, some of them just kids, who get the trash from the nearby dumpsters or wherever they can.

The slum is full of strife, corruption, and  tension, especially those who are part of a movement to rid the city of Muslims. If you are in trouble with the law, you may be able to bribe your way to freedom.

Boo’s reporting opens the reader to the realities of slum life in Mumbai. It is shocking and heartbreaking to read about humans living in such extreme poverty, and those who have the power to help are abusing and corrupting their authority. This is a book that will stay in your memory for a long time.

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