Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo
In her debut novel, Pulitzer prize winning reporter, Katherine Boo, takes the reader on the tour of one of Mumbai’s numerous slums where we encounter a cast of characters- ranging from the lowliest trash pickers, to a up-and-coming family of trash sorters, to a duplicitous and politically-minded slumlord and her lovely college-attending daughter.
At its best, Beautiful Forevers calls to mind Slumdog Millionaire and Shantaram in its ability take an unflinching look at life in a Mumbai slum. Boo is able to portray this ramshackle community without resorting to caricatures of it’s citizens as either pathetic victims or as a fearful violent mass.
The characters in the novel are nothing if not complex, and their dramas, daily concerns, and ambitions closely mirror those of Mumbai’s “Over City”. In fact, the main action of the story centers around how the slum dwellers carry on and put down roots despite their temporary communities, and attempt to better themselves and take part in the recently swelling Indian economy.
The true beauty of the novel is in Boo’s obvious affection for the resilience and amazing capability her characters have for survival. The story is at times heartbreaking, and often dryly humorous (especially with the portrayal of a Kafkaesque, corruption-driven under-bureaucracy), but at it’s core it is hopeful- in the way that one has to be when hope is all that is left to help a person carry on.
Note: I received this book as a giveaway from Shelfawareness