"'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.
Saumya Roy is a social entrepreneur, journalist, and activist based in Mumbai. She co-founded Vandana Foundation in 2016, a non-profit that provides microloans to entrepreneurs in Mumbai and rural Maharashtra. She has written for Forbes India, Mint newspaper, Outlook magazine, wsj.com, The Wire (India), The Wire (China) and Bloomberg News, among others. While working on Castaway Mountain, Saumya received fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center, Blue Mountain Center, Carey Institute for Global Good, Sangam House, and Dora Maar House. In 2019, she appeared on the Solvable podcast series, featuring those working to solve the world's most intractable problems.
*One of NPR's "Books We Love 2021"*
"You may think you’re reading a novel with an improbable premise. But this is a true account of people in India who literally live on, and make their living from, other people’s garbage." —Named one of '51 favorite books of 2021'by theWashington Independent Review of Books
"A distressing account of life on the Deonar garbage mountains outside Mumbai, this book chronicles the life of Farzana Ali Shaikh and her family to paint a broader picture of how families survive while literally surrounded by trash. Carefully researched and written with a lot of heart, this book opens a door into a different way of life – one in which people are forced to make a living in an incredibly unhealthy and dangerous environment while the government repeatedly fails to find sustainable, humane solutions." —Gabino Iglesias, NPR
"'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
"This powerful real-life tale from India reads like fiction." —C.B. Santore, Washington Independent Review of Books
"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.
"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
"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
"A non-fiction book that apparently reads like a thrilling page-turner. . . Sounds like an eye-opening read." —The Bookslut
"Equal parts intergenerational saga, love story, and courtroom drama, Castaway Mountain is a powerful book that will change the way you think about the world." —Joy Batra, Brown Girl Magazine
"There have been many books, fiction and nonfiction, about Mumbai’s slums. What makes this one stand out for me is that it’s been written by someone who has not only lived and worked with the people described here but has also invested time and effort trying to disentangle some of the government policies and legal challenges they have and are still dealing with." —Jenny Bhatt, Desi Books