LLA Reads: Life and Death

April 20, 2016

At Louisville Literary Arts, we all love to read. But our interests in literature are as varied as hats on Derby Day. Some of us gravitate toward poetry, while others prefer an epic novel. A few of us love reading creative nonfiction. In this space, we recommend recent books we've read, and hope that you'll find something just right for your reading list.

 

Kim recommends: BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS: LIFE, DEATH, AND HOPE IN A MUMBAI UNDERCITY by Katherine Boo (Random House, 2012)

 

​Genre: Nonfiction

 

“It was about as hopeful a season as there had ever been in the years since a bitty slum popped up in the biggest city in the country that holds one-third of the planet’s poor.  The country dizzy now with development and circulation of money” (Boo 3).  So begins the first page of the book by Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, winner of the National Book Award.

 

The story develops multiple characters in the Anawandi slum in Mumbai, India, which springs up near the airport and luxury western-style hotels, adjacent to a holding tank for raw sewage. The makeshift slum is hidden by a huge wall, adorned—on the hotel side—by billboards. One billboard promises a “Beautiful Forever,” three times.  An inspired title for a book about contrasts in wealth and poverty.

The story begins with a self-immolation, creating a scandal and arrests that especially reverses the fortune of one family that has improved life by collecting and selling trash. This inciting incident creates the narrative line for this complex book, which explores a variety of subplots of families and individuals who are trying to survive and succeed.

 

I was one hundred pages into this book before I realized I was reading narrative nonfiction. The language is lyrical and the book reads like a novel, but all the characters, even their names, are real. The point-of-view is omniscient. The exposition is intricately woven into the story. This is an immersion narrative. Boo, an American investigative journalist, married to an Indian man, spent three years interviewing residents of the Anawandi slum to create a story of a community, family and individuals, desperately poor but with dignity.  

 

Amy recommends: THE BONE CLOCKS by David Mitchell (Random House, 2014)

 

Genre: Fantasy/Literary Fiction

 

Winner of the 2015 World Fantasy Award, The Bone Clocks tells the story of Holly Sykes, from her time in high school to her life as an old woman. Mitchell loves to play with structure, and here we have sections that are both from Holly’s point of view and from the point of view of four different men who know Holly at different points in her life.

 

Of course, there’s a fantastic element to this tale as well. Holly is visited by what she calls the Radio People starting when she’s very young – voices and apparitions in her head. Eventually she discovers just who the Radio People are, and a strange discovery it is.

 

The compelling characters and intriguing structure of The Bone Clocks makes it an interesting read, whether you normally read fantastic literature or not. We are all bone clocks, and our stories, like Holly’s, are often profound journeys.

 

 

 

LOCAL AUTHOR

 

 

 

 

AUTHOR'S DEBUT

 

 

 

If you would like us to consider recommending your book, please contact LLA Reads editor Alice, who will let you know how to get your book to our readers.

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