Which Summer Reading Bingo square does this book fit? I’ve lost track of my Bingo card but, no matter, this book is an exquisitely painful examination of life and death in a Mumbai airport slum that has been one of the best uses of my reading time (or my time, in general) since Apeirogon.
It reads like fiction but, really, who could make this stuff up? I listened to this book–no surprise for me–and in her excellent afterward Boo describes how she, as a person who was not born in India, came to write this book after having married into that country, how she spent her days alongside the slum dwellers from late 2007 to early 2011 gathering information and directly experiencing most of the events described, getting to know the people of Annawadi with the help of translators.
Really, this book will make you feel, as much as a privileged person is able to feel, the conditions borne every day by our sisters and brothers who have next to nothing and face a system stacked against them. And yet, Boo includes hope in the subtitle of her book: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. I like to think there is hope, but this book was written in 2012 and now we have a global pandemic.
Boo’s book won many prizes, and deservedly so. I saw a search result for Behind the Beautiful Forevers that warned off “sensitive readers” but none of us should let ourselves off the hook so easily…