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Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure [Paperback]

Sarah MacDonald
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 April 2004
In her twenties, journalist Sarah Macdonald backpacked around India and came away with a lasting impression of heat, pollution and poverty. So when an airport beggar read her palm and told her she would return to India—and for love—she screamed, “Never!” and gave the country, and him, the finger.

But eleven years later, the prophecy comes true. When the love of Sarah’s life is posted to India, she quits her dream job to move to the most polluted city on earth, New Delhi. For Sarah this seems like the ultimate sacrifice for love, and it almost kills her, literally. Just settled, she falls dangerously ill with double pneumonia, an experience that compels her to face some serious questions about her own fragile mortality and inner spiritual void. “I must find peace in the only place possible in India,” she concludes. “Within.” Thus begins her journey of discovery through India in search of the meaning of life and death.

Holy Cow is Macdonald’s often hilarious chronicle of her adventures in a land of chaos and contradiction, of encounters with Hinduism, Islam and Jainism, Sufis, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians and a kaleidoscope of yogis, swamis and Bollywood stars. From spiritual retreats and crumbling nirvanas to war zones and New Delhi nightclubs, it is a journey that only a woman on a mission to save her soul, her love life—and her sanity—can survive.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 12th ptg thus edition (10 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767915747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767915748
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.4 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,218,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Funny, touching and addictive" (More)

"British images of India are invariably filtered through the apologetic hangover of the Raj or the ganja whiff of the hippy trail. In this refreshingly cliche-free and highly readable memoir, we are given a blunter, Australian view... frequently wry and thoughtful" (Daily Telegraph)

"Refreshingly ambivilent about the country's so-called charms. Part travelogue, part life-changing odyssey, part love story" (The Scotsman)

"Kathy Lette meets Tom Robbins on a slow train to Varanasi with Bill Bryson supplying the onion bhajis... Very, very funny. Sarah MacDonald captures everything that is frustrating, infuriating and exhilarating about India and presents it in an irresistible package. Will make even the most die-hard atheist want to don a sari and go on a spiritual journey" (Peter Moore)

"Sarah Macdonald pays up in the spiritual mega-market... Raunchy religion with redemption on the side" (Justine Hardy, author of Bollywood Boy) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

The international bestseller HOLY COW! combines the author's quest for spiritual enlightenment among India's many religions with her own engrossing - and comic - story --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced well written litany by spoilt Aussie 21 Nov 2010
Highly recommended and commended, so I read this before a trip to India. Its really well written, really flows, and allows a tidbits of insights into Indian society seen through the critical Westerner's eyes. It starts with a vivid description of pollution, dirt and chaos in Delhi, which is really overdone. If only the author would stop moaning about how India is dragging her down and getting on her nerves - after all, she is the Westerner with money, staff, air condition and money. She dips in here and there, offering a caleidoscopic view of oddities and spiritual quirks in this country - certainly very entertaining and a cracking read, offering enough history and cultural info to hold a conversation round some middle class dinner party table, but very little depth. Over all, the self-indulgent whinging and complaining really taints what could otherwise be an entertaining fast read. As travelogues go, this is perhaps one of the better ones, well worth a read. And the moaning and whingeing does become quite funny, although that was probably not the author's intention.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Autobiography of a Yogi Part 2 ! 18 Mar 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a real rollar-coaster ride, thouroughly enjoyable from the word go. The trip to the Kumba Mela Festival is both horrific and hilarious at the same time. Also the description of Sai Baba had me in stitches...but dont get me wrong there is a lot of good honest spiritual truth in this work, and one feels as if one is actually there going along for the ride alongside her. I learnt more about India in the first three chapters of this book than I have from many others. The one major flaw is her incorrect quotation of the famous Maha Mantra, (the Hare Krishna Mantra) which you would have thought she would have at least got right in a book like this for authenticity's sake. Dont miss this book, it's sure to become a classic and who knows maybe in the future, a film also.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An education!! 24 Oct 2003
By A Customer
Never having travelled to India, I found this book to be a very real, interesting and exciting adventure. Sarah travels back to the country she swore never to return to and experiences all the wonders and nightmares that India has to offer. Taking a journey through a variety of cultures and religions, she delves into her own spirituality and beliefs to find her true inner self. A very enjoyable read!!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars shallow; in fact, dire 20 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very shallow take on religions in India. For a start: it was not a genuine search. The author seems to have considered a way to fill out her time in India, and decided that this was the most profitable. It did not seem to be motivated by a genuine quest for spirituality; why else would she only choose the most gimmicky, the most outlandish examples of the chosen religions? For example, to represent Hinduism she chose the Kumbh Mela, the Hugging Saint, and Satya Sai Baba. To represent the Sikhs she chose a group of Western Sikh wannabes. It seems to me that a genuine seeker would be looking for the best ahd highest and most noble expression of the said religion. Both Hinduism and Sikhism can offer exalted, beautiful, truly breathtaking insghts into the human situation, but you do have to look hard for these examples; they are not on the shelves of the spiritual supermarket. And of course, that wouldn't make a quick, Bridget-Jones-type take on the subject, with a shallow title like Holy Cow, now would it? True spirituality is not at all gimmicky, and thus not commercial. This author was after commercial, and that's what she delivered, but as a serious examination of spiritual paths in India it's a big fail. The proof is that she never did find "her" own path. It all just peters out at the end, without the author coming to any conclusion as to which, if any, spiritual path is right for her, or any explanation as to why not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacked depth 8 Feb 2009
By reet
I was hoping that this book would give me an insight to a real spiritual side of India, as well as provide me with a desire to actually visit India. Instead I felt this book was superficial and lacked a sense of purpose. There were moments where I felt that Sarah was going to explore her spiritual journey in real depth and even moments where I learnt something from her adventure, but on the whole I was disappointed. Oh and I really don't want to go to India after reading this!
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sarah MacDonald need to learn That less is more! 21 Sep 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Although the book aims to give an honest diary report on a longer stay in India, and a lot of experiences probably relevant to the author, Sarah MacDonald tires me out by the desperate need to be wise crack funny in truck loads - all the time.

The orgies in color and the beauty of India drown in complaints. The terrific bookshops, which could have provided her with a key to Hindu Art and Iconography is shamefully neglected, and of course the deeper philosophy of Hinduism completely escapes her because of that.

Being superficial and self absorbed, she seeks the superficial India and the religious freak show. And that is what she makes fun of. The pearls of wisdom and Hindu philosophy completely escapes her.

Anybody going to India should read Alain Danielou before the go to India for such a long time, she obviously didn't.

I can see that people have loved this book and they are welcome to it, I wish there had been a description more in accordance with my view of her book, so I have decided to write a review for those who may look at the book in another light. I do not even care to finish it, because I do not care to know what happens to her in the other half of the book.

I give her two stars anyway, because the sad and sorry side of India is also a reality.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good
I really enjoyed this. An interesting and enlightening read.
Published 2 months ago by S. Mrs S. Samples
3.0 out of 5 stars easy read
The book arrived on time, in perfect condition. Just in time to take it on travels. Easy read, at the same time-being in a similar situation- I could identify with lot of what the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by helena laczko
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
As someone who visits India regularly - nice to see an author that focusing on the downside as well as the upside of this fascinating country
Published 4 months ago by MRS JEAN CHRISTISON
5.0 out of 5 stars Read at the level it is intended
This book is an enjoyable read. Don't read it for an in depth dissertation on the religions on India - read it for a snapshot of one person's stay in a fascinating, complicated... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Clare
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideal Gift
Bought this book as a gift and they are very happy with this.
Published 8 months ago by Beee
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read to get a realistic western perspective on India
I enjoyed the book because I have been to India & I could relate to the places & situations that Sarah MacDonald describes so well. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Rae Rendell
5.0 out of 5 stars Holy Cows and all that.........
Another great book about India and it's good bits and bad bits. How can you not love the diversity of the place! So much to explore and experience you can never get bored. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Carole Cooke
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny Read
Great read. It is about a girl who hates India but had to move to India because her Husband got a Job in India. Sarah falls ill and attends wedding Plus lots more.
Published 11 months ago by Alan Coughlan
4.0 out of 5 stars Holy Cow
This is autobiographical of the authoresses first experience of the diversity of life in India and how as a rather spoilt Australian she coped with it, enabling her to cover at the... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Benn
4.0 out of 5 stars Holiday paperback for the beach
Off to Goa on your holidays? I really enjoyed this book- she has a great sense of humour and takes us on a journey through her India with a page turning pace that is entertaining,... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Margurite K
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