Castaway Mountain

Love and Loss Among the Wastepickers of Mumbai

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Pub Date 07 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 24 Aug 2021

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*One of NPR's "Books We Love 2021"*
"'I came to see the mountains as an outpouring of our modern lives,' Roy writes, 'of the endless chase for our desires to fill us.' Readers of Behind the Beautiful Forevers will be drawn to this harrowing portrait."
—Publishers Weekly

"Castaway Mountain deserves every accolade. A stunning achievement."
—Kiran Desai, Booker Prize Winner, author of Inheritance of Loss.

All of Mumbai’s possessions and memories come to die at the Deonar garbage mountains. Towering at the outskirts of the city, the mountains are covered in a faint smog from trash fires. Over time, as wealth brought Bollywood knock offs, fast food and plastics to Mumbaikars, a small, forgotten community of migrants and rag-pickers came to live at the mountains’ edge, making a living by re-using, recycling and re-selling.
Among them is Farzana Ali Shaikh, a tall, adventurous girl who soon becomes one of the best pickers in her community. Over time, her family starts to fret about Farzana’s obsessive relationship to the garbage. Like so many in her community, Farzana, made increasingly sick by the trash mountains, is caught up in the thrill of discovery—because among the broken glass, crushed cans, or even the occasional dead baby, there’s a lingering chance that she will find a treasure to lift her family’s fortunes.
As Farzana enters adulthood, her way of life becomes more precarious. Mumbai is pitched as a modern city, emblematic of the future of India, forcing officials to reckon with closing the dumping grounds, which would leave the waste pickers more vulnerable than ever.
In a narrative instilled with superstition and magical realism, Saumya Roy crafts a modern parable exploring the consequences of urban overconsumption. A moving testament to the impact of fickle desires, Castaway Mountain reveals that when you own nothing, you know where true value lies: in family, community and love. 
Interior map illustration copyright (c) Jake Coolidge
*One of NPR's "Books We Love 2021"*
"'I came to see the mountains as an outpouring of our modern lives,' Roy writes, 'of the endless chase for our desires to fill us.' Readers of Behind the Beautiful...

Advance Praise

"Saumya Roy's gorgeous Castaway Mountain is a remarkable feat of immersive reporting and story-telling, a deeply-felt exploration of ideas, and a gripping chronicle of the fates of the garbage-pickers of Mumbai; Roy immerses you so deeply in her characters' lives and physical environment that at times I felt I was experiencing them myself. I loved this book." – Suzy Hansen, author of Notes on a Foreign Country

"Roy has a journalist's unflinching eye, a poet's talent for detail, and a radical sense of empathy that illuminates this account of the people who live on the Deonar garbage mountains. Urgent as a thriller, yet lingering in its unforgettable portraits of life, love and death, Castaway Mountain deserves every accolade. A stunning achievement." – Kiran Desai, Booker Prize Winner, author of Inheritance of Loss.

"It is rare that a book is a deeply moving love story with unforgettable characters while also illuminating a country and a culture. Saumya Roy’s book is a riveting love story set in the harrowing world of life as a trash picker on Mumbai’s garbage mountain. Read it for a most delicious story, read it to understand India, read it to know what it is like to grow up in extreme poverty in the shadow of enormous wealth. If you read one book about India, read this one." – Geeta Anand, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Cure 

"A terrific and thrilling book about people who are trapped in the gravitational force of a garbage mountain in Mumbai. What a delightful and powerful experience it is to read a good book about India." – Manu Joseph, author of Serious Men

"Saumya Roy's gorgeous Castaway Mountain is a remarkable feat of immersive reporting and story-telling, a deeply-felt exploration of ideas, and a gripping chronicle of the fates of the...

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ISBN 9781662600951
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Featured Reviews

This was a detailed, thorough and well-written book that managed to feel both incredibly informative while also remaining personalized and intimate. The problem of trash disposal is seemingly intractable, as are the larger societal problems that mean that trash pickers will always be a part of this equation. I found myself interested in learning more about the lives of the people discarding all that trash, though; I think it would have been interesting to see even a couple of those narratives mirrored in the narratives of the trash pickers the author so closely followed. That the lives of the Mumbai elites are decadent is evident in the volumes and types of trash disposed, but it would have been a really powerful narrative device to see a few of those lives and series of choices played out, so we see even more clearly the starkness of the divisions between rich and poor in India that mean that people like Farzana and Farha are consigned to this life. I'm nonetheless glad to have had the opportunity to read this; many thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

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Castaway Mountain by Saumya Roy is a superb book with an engrossing plot and well drawn characters. Well worth the read!

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A fascinating read a book that introduced to a place a way of life I knew nothing about.The people their lives a stunningly written book that I willlbe recommending.#netgalley #castawaymountain

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Advanced NetGalley ARC | If you read Boo’s Behind The Beautiful Forevers, don’t miss one of the newest Indian books: Castaway Mountain. Roy’s narrative nonfiction book about the waste-pickers in Mumbai is just as raw and well-researched. Find both love and heartbreak in this community. I found myself wanting to read Castaway Mountain from start to finish. Would Farzana live? Would she find love? I learned so much more about Indian politics and poverty. The metaphors are endless just like the elite's trash. You can find The Uncorked Librarian's full review here: Thank you to NetGalley and Astra Publishing House for a free advanced copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Castaway Mountain (publishing today) is an eye opening book about the people who make their living in the mountains of trash outside Mumbai, picking through the refuse to find objects that can be resold. In many ways, this is not an easy book to read. The people live right outside this mountain, with homes made of plastic sheets and air filled with smoke and gas. They have to sort through body parts, rotten food, and sharp glass to make their living. And all that doesn’t even come close to one truly horrific even 2/3 of the way through the novel. But while this book was heartbreaking, it also showed the love and loyalty that exist in this community. Many of the people take pride in the work they do and how they provide for their family, and just want recognition by the government for the work that they do. Roy alternates between sharing the lives of several families of pickers and showing how the municipality is trying to solve the problems caused by the trash. It seems like an insurmountable problem, made more difficult by the lack of communication between different levels of government and agencies, but it was interesting to see the solutions proposed such as waste-to-power plants. It was also interesting to reflect on my own role in all of this as a consumer. Though I do my best to recycle, reuse, and donate items I don’t need, my family still fills up several trash bags a week. The book reminds us how this this trash mountain was built out of people’s desires and discards. Thank you to Astra House and Sabrina Dax PR for a copy of this book!

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This is the true story of the garbage pickers in Mumbai. The poorest citizens in this country make their living picking through mountains of garbage. They sell and recycle the smallest scraps of anything usable that they find. The danger is that they are breathing harmful chemicals everyday and there is also the danger of this huge pile caving in on them. This is story of one such family and the tragedy that their lives become.

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In Castaway Mountain, Saumya Roy tells the story of the Deonar garbage mountains in Mumbai and the people who eke out a living picking trash there. We follow talented picker Farzana, whose skills help provide for her family. Roy also gives greater historical context for the trash mountains and the very slow moving plans to try to dismantle them. This book is not an easy read, as Roy gives us an unflinchingly honest look at the suffering in the Deonar area. Farzana's story in particular will resonate with readers, as she tries to make a better future for herself in the hardest of conditions. I appreciated the chance to learn about this subject both through Farzana's story and the larger description of Deonar. I did a mix of audio and text for this book, and I would recommend both options. Thank you to Astra Publishing House for providing an ARC on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Provocative and informative, Castaway Mountain is about a culture stuck in the throes of continuous poverty. Families living around the Deonar garbage dump outside of Mumbai made their meager living looking for items in the trash that they could sell. Despite the danger of the gangs, noxious gases emanating from the trash heaps, and sicknesses the waste-pickers had to endure, very few ever left the mountains for a better life. A continuous theme throughout and one that gave continuous hope to the residents, were the rumors of a waste-to-energy plant that was to be built, giving meaningful jobs to many waste pickers. However, with corruption, lack of organization, and continuous delays, it might have finally come to fruition in 2020 (at least that's what Google says). The sense of community among the residents of Deonar and what they go through each day just to survive is what makes this such a heartrending story, and the fact that it is non-fiction. Thank you to the author, publisher, and Netgalley for this ARC.

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