There's no way someone could have written this as a novel and gotten anyone to read it. We'd all roll our eyes and say, "So over the top! So exaggerated! That would never happen."
As is often the case, however, it did happen.
This is quite a book. It's an account of a slum in Mumbai, the people who live there, how they live, the challenges they face, the bureaucracy and corruption that constricts them, while battle potential destruction from both monsoons and from the government, which threatens to bulldoze the slum to make room for more airport construction.
Author Katherine Boo spent three years exploring this particular slum and getting to know its residents, and she's got a remarkable tale to tell. The story unfolds around the framework of a legal case involving two of the slum's families, one of which claims the other drove Fatima "One Leg" to try and burn herself to death. But it's far more complicated than that sentence implies. Family and neighborhood feuds and alliances, legalities, bribes, the less-than-ideal court system, and the psychological, physical, and financial toll the battle takes on everyone is presented in brutal detail.
Boo is clear and succinct and not romantic about her subject matter:
"What Abdul wanted was this: a wife, innocent of words like pimp and sisterfucker, who didn't much mind how he smelled; and eventually a home somewhere, anywhere, that was not Annawadi. Like most people in the slum, and in the world, for that matter, he believed his own dreams properly aligned to his capacities."
Abdul later says, "I tell Allah I love him immensely, immensely. But I tell Him I cannot be better, because of how the world is."
I thought for a bit about sharing the story behind the title, but frankly, if you haven't read the book, it's a wonderful story and very fitting for the book, so I'll leave it to you. I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but this is just a wonderful piece of writing.