Holy Cow!: An Indian Adventure Paperback – 1 Mar 2004
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"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)
After backpacking her way around India, 21-year-old Sarah Macdonald decided that she hated this land of chaos and contradiction with a passion, and when an airport beggar read her palm and insisted she would come back one day - and for love - she vowed never to return. But twelve years later the prophecy comes true when her partner, ABC's South Asia correspondent, is posted to New Delhi, the most polluted city on earth. Having given up a blossoming radio career in Sydney to follow her new boyfriend to India, it seems like the ultimate sacrifice and it almost kills Sarah - literally. After being cursed by a sadhu smeared in human ashes, she nearly dies from double pheumonia. It's enough to send a rapidly balding atheist on a wild rollercoaster ride through India's many religions in search of the meaning of life and death. From the 'brain enema' of a meditation retreat in Dharamsala to the biggest Hindu festival on earth on the steps of the Ganges in Varanasi, and with the help of the Dalai Lama, a goddess of healing hugs and a couple of Bollywood stars - among many, many others - Sarah discovers a hell of a lot more.See all Product description
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And true to form that’s how it started. My own son is currently backpacking around Central America and I was looking forward to reading Sarah’s adventures backpacking through India. Unfortunately I’d misread the book description, as the backpacking part briefly describes a conversation at the airport before jumping on a plane home and takes about a minute to read. That’s it.
Slightly disappointed I read on and to be fair enjoyed what I was reading. I like the Indian people and I’ve written a lot about them myself. I enjoyed Sarah’s new friends and found myself amused at the variety of myths and superstitions that make up their everyday lives. I bought a copy for my wife, imagining it was just the type of thing she’d enjoy, and I realise now that I’d jumped the gun. She’ll hate it. It will bore her silly.
I’m currently 60% through the book, which I think is equivalent to about 183 pages of a print copy, and the story is doing my head in. I don’t honestly know if I’ll be able to finish it. This is one of those books that you find yourself reading and after a page or two realise your mind has wandered and you’ve no idea what you’ve been reading.
I can’t believe that a book that started off so well can get so repetitive. MacDonald likes to write, and to be fair she’s good at it, but she’s hopeless at stringing it all together. At one stage we find her on the banks of the Ganges (which is actually a beautiful Goddess who crashed to earth from heaven with only Shiva’s dreadlocks to break her fall) for the mass bathing known as Maha Kumbh Mela and then next thing we know she’s at a Buddhist retreat and we’re not quite sure how she got there.
This is the general theme of the book. It would possibly take a lifetime to explore all of India’s religions, Gods and Goddesses, but there’s no denying MacDonald gives it a darn good try. She aims herself at a variety of meditation retreats, yoga studies, Hindu festivals. Buddhist teachings and in fairness to her she gets involved as opposed to just reading about them all. But for the reader it comes across as a bit of a mish-mash, a patchwork goulash of India’s religions, and as one dovetails into another the reader is left a bit flummoxed.
And for that reason, with regret, I can only allocate this a 3 Star rating. It deserves higher, simply because of the effort in living it and writing about it, but for readership content it doesn’t deserve a 4 Star.
I’m feeling a stab of conscience now for the low rating. Perhaps if it was a shorter book, or it flowed better, but it’s not and it doesn’t, and in all honesty I really can’t grant this a 4 Star. 3½ Stars would possibly be a better rating, but there isn’t that option.