Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13: Book Review

Tonight our book club met to discuss Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. It is a nonfiction book about a slum in Mumbai, India. Here is my review of the book:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is deceptive because it reads like fiction, so you often feel like you are reading a novel. If this book was a novel, then I would probably only give it three stars. There are a lot of characters, and the story jumps around between them, causing it to feel slow and disjointed at times. It is a bit hard to pinpoint what the main conflict of the story is, and there is little resolution at the end. If the purpose of this book was to tell us an entertaining story, then it was just okay.

However, the purpose of this nonfiction narrative is far greater than just telling a good story. While reading, I felt like there was a camera circling through the slum of Annawadi, giving us glimpses into the homes and lives of these characters, who are not merely characters in the story, but real people with real lives. The conflicts weren't included to add drama to the story; they really happened. There is not much resolution at the end, because these characters are still living and their stories still continue today.

I feel like Katherine Boo more than succeeded at giving us an extremely well-documented, readable look at the lives of these Indian people. For that, I give this book 5 stars.
I think it would be worthwhile for everyone to read.

I am still haunted by a few things after finishing this book:
1. The fact that these people are real and are still alive (hopefully) today. The book ends in 2011, and I just can't stop thinking about where these people are now. What happened to Annawadi? What are these people doing right now on the other side of the world? Has anything improved for them? Is it even possible that things could be worse for them now?
2. The hopelessness of the whole situation. There seems to be nothing that can be done to improve the lives of the people in this book. Foreign aid does not make it into the right hands. The Indian government is corrupt and controlled by the wealthy. Police can't be trusted. Even the hospitals are corrupt! I finished the book wanting to help but feeling completely helpless and hopeless.


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