Behind The Beautiful Forevers
by Katherine Boo
Random House ISBN 978-1-4000-6755-8
Annawadi is a slum located close to the Mumbai airport and not far from luxury hotels. In 1991 a group of laborers who had been brought in to make runway repairs saw opportunity in the area and they stayed. They established Annawadi. Pulitzer Prize Winner Katherine Boo has written a work of narrative nonfiction, Behind the Beautiful Forevers that provides an unforgettable look into life in Annawadi,an unforgettable place. The story opens in 2008 when there are 335 huts and 3000 people. Water comes from a public tap and the toilets are public as well. To complete the landscape is a sewage lake. The novel tells the story of Abdul who is the eldest son in a family of eleven people. His day begins with his mother, Zehrunisa, waking him by cursing at him because she thinks it will increase his business profits. Abdul supports his family by selling recyclable airport garbage. His income has provided hope to the family that they might eventually get out of Annawadi. One unfortunate event changes everything. The family shares a common wall with the shack next door occupied by Fatima and her family. A remodeling project mishap leads to a confrontation between the two families-a confrontation with dire consequences for all involved. Ms. Boo spent over three years amongst the people of Annawadi. She skillfully writes of their plight and their survival skills. Abdul, Zehrunisa and Fatima are not just names to Ms. Boo. She brilliantly introduces them to the reader so that we, too, can come to know them. She makes it possible for us to understand life in an impossible place. Prior to reading Behind The Beautiful Forevers I had never heard of Annawadi. Having read the book left an indelible mark on me. I will never forget the people of Annawadi and their stories. For me, reading this book was a profound experience. I highly recommend this book.
I received this book free of charge from Random House and I provide this review of my own free will.