Monday, June 2, 2014

Nerdfighters Book Club: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

If you spend any amount of time on YouTube, you're bound to find your way over the VlogBrothers channel eventually. If you do, and you are of substantial awesome character, you'll eventually come to identify yourself as a Nerdfighter. If you do, and you also happen to be a book junkie, you'll rush out to find a copy of Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers; all just because John Green told you to.

So that's how I came to pick up a copy of this book at the airport in San Diego (alongside another nonfiction book about life in India: Karma Gone Bad...the two books have nothing else in common apart from being enjoyable reads).

 Our task was to read the book by June 10th, I actually finished it a couple weeks ago, but am just getting around to writing about it now. Life is busy I guess.

The book is the nonfiction story of a number of residents of the Mumbai airport slum of Annawadi. The author spent time living with and interviewing Abdul, his family, neighbours and colleges over the course of a year or two, and the action of the novel centers around the 'burning of the One Leg'. While the story of Abdul and his family is central to the novel, I personally enjoyed the portrayal of some of the women in the book. Specifically the relationship between beautiful and dutiful daughter Manju, and her determined, some might say power hungry mother Asha. In fact, I'd argue that it is the strong female characters who drive the story and their families ability to either rise above the slum, or sink into it. Apart from Abdul who comes across as not yet a man, but certainly not a child, all of the male characters were either boyish youths or arguably inadequate men (in so far as being able to provide for their families).

The book is quite touching, and a balance between the tragedy and hope that drive the lives of those people living behind the beautiful forevers is maintained throughout. The title comes from the wall erected to hide the slum, baring advertising for "Beautiful Forevers"

Overall I enjoyed the book. However, I found it a bit difficult to follow through as the narrative jumped from character to character throughout; often leaving some stories hanging only to be retaken up at later points. Additionally, I wish the author could have spent a little more time with these people, I was left wondering what happens to them. But I suppose such is the nature of life, and Behind the Beautiful Forevers only aims to provide the reader with a fleeting glimpse into the lives of the people of Annawadi.

John Green also recommends you check out Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta, for a different perspective on a different aspect of Indian Living (if you will). I'll have to put that on my too read list, unfortunately the haul I brought in last weekend at the Calgary Reads used book sale will likely keep me busy throughout the summer.

What are you reading lately? I recently reviewed James Watson's The Double Helix on my other blog, and in preparation for the TFIOS movie will be re-reading The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) this week.

Completely unrelated, all while writing this post, I was annoyed by the sound of someone practicing singing their scales to the piano drifting in through my window. Yeesh! I hope this doesn't become a regular Monday night thing.

1 comment:

  1. I am going to try and check this book out!
    It sounds like a good read and I love deeply portrayed people/characters in books :)

    Thanks for the post!