…and maybe because of the boiling April sun, he thought about water and ice. Water and ice were made of the same thing. He thought most people were made of the same thing, too. He himself was probably a little different from the corrupt people around him. Ice was distinct from—and in his view, better than—what it was made of. He wanted to be better than what he was made of. In Mumbai’s dirty water, he wanted to be ice.

A haunting and beautiful portrait of humanity, Behind the Beautiful Forevers reads more like a novel than nonfiction. But journalism it is. Of the highest order.

Written after three years of observations and interviews in a small slum of Mumbai, the book follows a few locals as they build their lives amidst the devastating poverty just behind the Beautiful Forevers.