I cheated again. I borrowed Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo from our local library as part of their Summer Reading Program. This book made many bestseller lists and I was curious to see what the fuss was all about.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers puts the reader in Annawadi, a slum close to the airport in Mumbai. It follows the lives of some of the residents as they struggle to survive in a pollution and corruption filled area. The main characters are the Husain family, Muslim scavengers who buy, sort, and resell garbage for recycling. Asha, the woman who would be slumlord, and her family are also prominent players, as is the family who lives next door to the Husains, and the boys who collect the garbage that the Husains recycle.
This nonfiction narrative is fast-paced and gripping. The amount of corruption at every level is disturbing and thought-provoking. Educational nonprofits with no actual students and orphanages that sell donated food and supplies instead of feeding the children are treated as the norm by the residents of Annawadi, which was a little heartbreak in itself. Vast corruption in the police and judicial system made me wonder about recent headline-making arrests and trials in India. The thoughts brought about by reading this book are uncomfortable ones, which is a good thing. I can’t say that I enjoyed reading this book, but I am glad that I read it.