Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru, I was at my friend Diane Biolsi's birthday celebration the other night at the new restaurant in town- the Oak Room Tavern- when I overheard a heated discussion about a book that a group of women had just read. It was set in an Indian slum and traced the daily lives of its inhabitants . Everyone agreed it was a life transforming book but some felt it was too disturbing to recommend. Do you know the book and, if so, what is your opinion? Intrigued but Uneasy

Dear Uneasy, The book is BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katerine Boo. The author spent four years chronicling the lives of three families from a slum near the Mumbai airport situated just behind a strip of luxurious hotels and expensive shops; all the names are real, every event personally witnessed, everyone an individual the author met and interviewed. These residents earn their living from the trash that airport travelers discard: bottles, newspapers, cigarettes, metal trinkets, anything and everything. While everyone needs food, shelter, and good health to survive, very few here have even the barest of these. One of the most shocking revelations was the overwhelming corruption that pits doctors, police, judges, and teachers against the poorest of these slum dwellers . The question the author poses remains unanswered: there are so many poor, living such wretched lives just beyond worlds of great wealth and waste, why don't they rise up? Instead, so many turn their anger against one another. Yes, this is a disturbing book but one that leaves the reader astonished that "while it is blisteringly hard to be good in such circumstances, some people are good and many try to be…"

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