Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Winner, National Book Awards 2012 for Nonfiction

Nonfiction_Boo_Behind the Beautiful Forevers
ISBN 9781400067558
Random House |
Katherine Boo
Katherine Boo

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Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter will soon become its first female college graduate. But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

Judges Citation

In her prose as well as her purpose, Katherine Boo calls Dickens and Zola to mind—and yet her account of the teenaged Abul Hakim Husain and his kinetic web of contacts in Annawadi, his slum in the shadow of the Mumbai airport, is nonfiction. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is an interview-based narrative in which the interviewer never appears, a murder mystery, an intricately-plotted reflection of everyday life, and a reminder that sometimes the writer’s most valuable organ is the ear.