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Behind the beautiful forevers

BOO, KATHERINE

A heart-wrenching story, Boo takes us across oceans to be a part of the lives of three different Indian families living in the slums of Mumbai. The vivid descriptions and haunting images painted by the words take the reader out of the comfort of his or her home and thrusts the reader into the garbage-riddled shacks where the characters live.

The story focuses on a young wage-earner of a large slum family named Abdul, an expert sifter of garbage. His selling of recyclable items allows he and his family to live above their lowly status for a time. This success attracts the jealous attention of their neighbor, a one-legged prostitute known as Fatima. Her envy leads to significant effects on the other characters of the story.

The third family is that of Asha, a worker for the extreme rightwing Marathi chauvinist party named Shiv Sena. Asha's dream is to become a slumlord. She runs a school as a side business with her daughter Manju, an undergraduate who aspires to be the first female college graduate of the slums.

Each of their stories intertwine and affect each other, culminating into an emotional and heartrending journey for the reader. Boo uses a personal, hands-on approach in her writing, and her short biography reveals that she has spent over twenty years of her life reporting from within poor communities, including the slums that are the setting for this book.

A profound glimpse into the lives of Indians in the slums, Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a must-read, though it is not a story for the faint-hearted.

By Windy Amimo
Submitted: November 29, 2012