WHENPulitzer Prize-winning American writer Katherine Boo fell in love with Indian academic Sunil Khilnani, she says she ‘‘gained a country’’. But Boo soon realised that questions needed answering about ‘‘an increasingly affluent and powerful nation’’ that ‘‘still housed one-third of the poverty, and onequarter of the hunger, on the planet’’. For almost four years, she focused on the inhabitants of Annawadi, a Mumbai slum crouched near the airport and its fancy international hotels, to write Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Scribe, $27.95). How were the poorest of the poor coping in the age of global markets and hitherto unknown, but still largely unattainable, wealth, power and status? Boo’s narrative non-fiction reads like a novel, so vividly portrayed are the slumdwellers and their perilous yet hopeful lives. I wager you will not lightly forget hard-working young Muslim rubbish sorter Abdul and his desperate family as they battle to survive false manslaughter accusations, religious intolerance and neighbourhood envy in Mumbai’s ‘‘undercity’’.