Behind the Beautiful Forevers

by Katherine Boo |

REVIEWED BY HELEN ROGAN

NONFICTION

Separated by just a roadway and a wall from the gleaming splendor of Mumbai airport and its luxury hotels is a teeming slum named Annawadi. Here, three thousand of the world’s poorest people eke out a grim and precarious existence, crammed together in makeshift huts near an open sewer and living off the detritus of India’s new wealth. Would you want to know more? Katherine Boo did. A Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, she spent three years at Annawadi and came away with a tough-minded, inspiring and irresistible book about its residents, especially the nimble-fingered children-like Abdul, Sunil and Kalu-who scavenge garbage to sell to the recyclers. These “road boys,” she writes, “accepted the basic truths: that in a modernizing, increasingly prosperous city, their lives were embarrassments best confined to small spaces, and their deaths would matter not at all.” Boo’s extraordinary achievement is twofold. She shows us how people in the most desperate circumstances can find the resilience to hang on to their humanity. Just as importantly, she makes us care.

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Bond Girl

by Erin Duffy |

REVIEWED BY RENNIE DYBALL

FICTION

If the devil wears Prada, then his minions dress in Gucci loafers and tailored suits. As Alex Garrett’s chauvinistic superiors at a Wall Street firm, they also subject their young female hire to ruthless abuse, from her nickname “Girlie” to creepy come-ons. Though Duffy’s debut wades into chick-lit waters with an illicit interoffice romance, it’s still a fun, fresh take on girl power in a boys’ club.

Defending Jacob

by William Landay |

REVIEWED BY ANDREW ABRAHAMS

THRILLER

Parental devotion and its limits lie at the heart of this gripping, emotional murder saga. In well-heeled Newton, Mass., prosecutor Andy Barber’s son Jacob is accused in the stabbing death of a schoolyard bully. The Barbers, suddenly town pariahs, learn more about the dark side of their only child, even as they fight to clear his name. The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.

Immortal Bird

by Doron Weber |

REVIEWED BY ELLEN SHAPIRO

MEMOIR

In this ferociously tender memoir, Weber chronicles the battle to save his son, who was born with congenital heart disease. A charismatic kid with a gift for acting, Damon underwent two open-heart surgeries before age 4 and developed life-threatening complications at 13. His dad compiled data and consulted specialists, trying to wrest a cure from a balkanized, perhaps negligent, medical system. Weber’s voice is so outsized-his wrath is Biblical, his love unsurpassed-that it threatens to overshadow Damon’s quietly remarkable fight for a normal life, yet the boy’s light shines through. It’s lovely and heartbreaking.

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