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Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  16,479 ratings  ·  1,212 reviews
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
...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2002)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  16,479 ratings  ·  1,212 reviews


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Amy
I have to admit that I decided to read this book because it has a great cover. I should have peeked a bit inside, though, because the cliched chapter titles would have kept me away: Insane in the Membrane, Birds of a Feather Become Extinct Together, etc.

Basically, this is the memoir of a selfish Australian woman's year in India. She sees India as a filthy place full of disgusting people with intolerable cultural habits. And she spends her free time (while her husband is working in other cities o
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Petra-X
India as a giant spiritual supermarket! Sarah Macdonald peruses the aisles and samples the product. Jainism here, Judaism there, Hindus, Parsis, Buddhists, Sufis and Christians she samples all their wares. And the book is just about as superficial as it sounds. It is not about these religions (although Sarah does try for some depth) but about her experiences of them with some rather wacky people. Both the 'magical' gurus and the hippie-types who sit at their feet and swoon.

Sarah, like the advent
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Aarathi
Nov 25, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
"Holy Cow" by Sarah Macdonald is the author's condescending account of time she spent in India. Her descriptions of what is actually a beautiful, rich, varied culture are narrow-minded and written in a tone that makes it clear she considers herself superior to India and Indian people. It's a shame that she didn't learn anything useful from her travels or absorb any of admirable values of Indian/Hindu culture such as acceptance, open-mindedness and respect for all beings.

Last but not least, the c
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Dorothea
Aug 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who want to travel to India
If you have a lingering, romanticized desire to travel to India, this book will cure the crap out of that.

Krishna! Does this woman tell it like it is: the pollution, trash, urine, feces and dismembered body parts clogging up the Indian landscape and water ways. Impossible traffic and hoards of desperate people pressing in on you from all sides, limping zombie lepers chasing you through dark alleys begging for coins, Indian men aggressively groping western women in public because they think all
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Amit Chawla
Jan 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: trash
I read the book while holidaying in Northern NSW. The reason I read this book was because it was on the bookshelf in the holiday home we had for the week. Also because it was supposed to talk about India from a Westerners perspective.

Let me put it out there: this book is not a travelogue. It is a miserable portrayal of a difficult to understand country by a selfish Australian woman. A lot of what she passes off in the book is exaggeration. In other words, fiction. Do NOT use this book as a deci
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Corey Fry
Dec 15, 2008 rated it liked it
A good book that no one should take too seriously. She actually starts off a selfish, egocentric woman aghast at the quality of Indian life and grows into a spiritual investigative journalist of sorts.

I traveled to India this past year and her accounts from a western perspective are accurate. But with time, the beauty of India reveals itself to travelers and she shares this with readers.

It's a funny memoir that gives a cursory background of the spiritual-religious forces existent in modern India
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Denice
Jan 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
If I could give a book negative stars, it would be this one. This girl seemed to complain about everything she was experiencing in India. I think I yelled at the book every chapter, "GO HOME!" I read the whole thing hoping to witness her enlightenment and was highly disappointed. If you want a book which will give you more insight about India, read Motiba's Tattoos!
René Edde
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: travelers, anyone with a fascination in India
Recommended to René by: My Hindi teacher
India with humor, the only way to take the country in stride. This book captured the heart and the essence of India and its vast array of religions and cultures, all from the outsiders perspective. I have read this book a few times and know I will read it again. But, for a bigger treat, check out the audiobook. A take on India and its many accents all with the drawl of an Australian accident. This book made me laugh so hard while driving to assignments that I nearly wet my pants.

Perfect read fo
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Anirudh
OK first up - I haven't read this book and neither do I intend to. The simple reason being that everything a westerner (or an easterner for that matter) had to say about the dichotomy of modern India, has been magnificently captured and related by Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and any book by William Dalrymple.

That's it. Done. You won't need anything else.

But the reason why I am writing this "review" is just one : The issues Indians on this discussion board have with the book's cover.

What is so strange/weird/unacce
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Reema
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read ‘Holy Cow’ in 2006 or 2007. It was interesting to look at Indian diversity and idiosyncrasies through the eyes of an outsider who wanted to make sense of the chaos. I loved it. But in order to appreciate this book, you must have the ability to laugh at India’s eccentricities. It is one of the very few books which I have re-read and enjoyed.

Sarah Macdonald, an Australian journalist, broadcaster and presenter, did not like India on her first visit and never wanted to return. But she r
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Lori
I enjoy books exploring the different cultures and customs of the world. I enjoy a well-written memoir exploring those discoveries, but I finally put this one aside about 3/4 of the way through it. I tried, I truly tried to finish it, but with so many wonderful books out there waiting to be read, I couldn't justify spending another minute listening to this poor, lost woman attempt to "find herself" or the meaning of life that she was so desperately seeking.

I had read reviews mentioning that ther
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Muphyn
I'm actually surprised I disliked this book as much as I did! I expected an hilarious account of a girl travelling to India, a place where she'd been to previously but never wanted to return to. Well, she did and she did do some travelling but it wasn't hilarious by any stretch of the imagination... She used to be a radio host in Sydney, so I figured I'd really relate to her humour but hm, there just wasn't much of that.

Since I listened to the audiobook, read by the author, what I must credit to
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Peggy
Mar 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ugh-hate-ed-it
I wish I could give this book zero stars. What a condescending, racist piece of garbage. Why write about going to India if you didn't even like it? I saw this book sold in stores everywhere in India and I wish they would take it off the shelves. Sarah MacDonald is a peddler of lies about this truly phenomenal country. Please don't read it.
Ashu
Feb 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People who can filter negativity
After reading first chapter, I realized what I am heading to, but continued to read, as a bestseller should have some salt. And, indeed it was there, just in the name of crass Ozzie sense of humor she kept on rubbing on, Indian wounds.

Though her depiction of situation of civic situations in India and obscurity of religions is very true. But, when it becomes continuous ranting and predictable, it becomes derogatory and prejudiced. When she is deriding india she gets very detailed and elaborate, b
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K.
Sep 28, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
I enjoyed it and felt a little ashamed for enjoying it so much. The best chapter is the one about the Vipassana ten-day meditation boot-camp. I've done that, and she nailed it. The tone of the book bothers me, though. It's written from a position of comfortable privilege: an American middle-class woman survives the hardships of travel in India. I think the author genuinely responds viscerally and spiritually to India, but I'd rather read a less-mediated version of India from, say, Arundhati Roy, ...more
Santhosh
The first third of the book is fantastical poverty porn and reads like slumdog Borat attends Ripley's! There are lepers begging at the airport, ash-smeared naked aghoris at traffic signals in central Delhi, earthquakes that claimed hundreds and yet 'hardly is in the news' because it's common in India, Apollo is 'the only good hospital in New Delhi' but is 'half a city away' and has a 'For Poor People' special entrance, her boyfriend has to stay with her in her hospital room since rapes are very ...more
Heather
Aug 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
As far as I could tell, this was supposed to be a true story. The problem started when some of Sarah's anecdotes were just too fantastic, and clearly written in such a way as to convince her audience of jaded Westerners that the possibility of magic still exists in India. Additionally, some events were reworked to increase their impact (I would run some passages by my Indian friends to see if such claims were possible, such as a toilet cleaner calling a palm reading a "hand job"; the unanimous a ...more
Velvetink
Finished. 5 stars from me. Review to come.

So cold here at the moment I needed to read something about a warm place. India is on my list of places to visit before I die so till then I can't get enough books to whet my appetite. It was a pleasant surprise to find out Sarah Macdonald is Jonathan Harley's other half. He wrote "Lost in Transmission" which I liked tremendously. Harley writes about his time as ABC reporter in India & the east generally and Macdonald quit her job at Triple J & went over
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Denise
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald
3.5 stars

'In India I’ve travelled a soul’s journey: from hedonism to sickness, from silence to song, from violence to peace and from learning to die to celebrating life.'

The above passage beautifully encapsulates this entertaining and thought-provoking travel memoir. I decided to read Holy Cow so I could kill two birds with one stone: to gain more knowledge about India before my upcoming trip, and to kick off the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge
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Daniel Roy
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
I loved this book once I finished it; however, the cover, title and back cover are misleading.

I expected a humorous romp through India, but this book really explores serious themes and real-life situations, albeit with humor. I wanted a light-hearted introduction to India as I was headed there - what I got instead was a hard look at some of the good and not-so-good about India.

I found the beginning of the book hard to take, bordering on xenophobic; the tone changes as the author begins to "under
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Christine Zibas
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As one might guess from the title, this Indian voyage is not for the serious-minded or those likely to take offense easily. For those with a sense of humor and adventure, however, this book is a delight. Australian Sarah Macdonald, backpacking the world at aged 21, could not wait to get out of a country beset by poverty, pollution, and chaos. At the airport, a beggar predicts that she will return to India one day for love.

Clearly, Macdonald had no intention of returning, yet 11 years later just
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S.Ach
Last winter, during my Rajasthan tour, I came across a small bookstore in Jaisalmer and, I kid you not, copies of this book were more than half of the total books that the store had to offer. Surprised I asked, "Why?" "Foreigners love this book, Sir. I sell 10-15 of this every month," was the smiling response from the seller. An interesting title, an attention grabbing cover and an excitement to read about my idiosyncratic country from a visiting foreigner's perspective motivated me to grab a co ...more
Marcel Patrick
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
All the reviews that give this book a low rating makes me wonder if they're missing the point! This was a heart opening book aptly conveying the challenge of living within a culture that brings all of ones judgement, criticism and shadow side to the fore.

Kudos to the author for her ongoing quest in her development of compassion and the process of striving to bring more peace both to her life and others. The spiritual journey is always a contradiction as after all we are only human and she does
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Lola
Oct 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
If you do a quick backpacking trip through India or if you sit at home and think about what it would be like to travel through India, then some of what Macdonald says might rub you the wrong way. If you come here and try to settle down and live for a couple of years, you will find yourself going through the same learning curve Macdonald went through. Especially if you live in Delhi like she did. This book helped me know I am not alone! India is a really tough place to live unless you want to jus ...more
Akelly
Feb 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
COLONIALIST DRIVEL from a privileged, lacking of empathy white woman. Can I give a book 0/5??? 😑
Rusalka
I've read some bad reviews of this book, and therefore have put it off. But I decided I should finally give it a go. And it started off as bad as I expected. An entitled, white, Australian heading to India and bitching and moaning the whole way.

I missed Sarah on radio, as I was at school while her program was on Triple J. So I caught every other show on radio, except the 9am-12pm slot. Maybe that would have endeared me to her before reading this book, because she needs all the help she can get
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Ankur Rastogi
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
"Holy Cow" is about an Australian woman who spends close to 2 years in India. Its about her experience, her adventure and more importantly her "spiritual" journey across the various facets of religion. It also shows her transformation from an "extreme cynic attitude" to a more "adaptable and loving attitude" towards the country.

Being an Indian, it was interesting to read the perception and subsequent impression that an outsider gets/feels when they visit India. Sometimes it was interesting, some
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Simran Khurana
Apr 10, 2017 rated it liked it
To be honest, Holy Cow is dung-in-your-face kind of sardonic write up that will not be well ruminated by patriotic Indians (read right wing fascists). Add to that the author is a self styled India specialist, who seems to have understood the pulse of the nation because she has endured the myriad hues of religious complexity that makes up India. The book had a solid backing of strong reviews, from esteemed authors, and I told myself, 'Hey, why not?' I need to view India from the eyes of a foreign ...more
Renu
Sep 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
While living in USA, I continuously miss my home country India; thus, I thought of reading a book based on India expecting it to refresh my memories. I opted for “A Holy Cow”, but soon I realized I have made a wrong choice. Her description of India is as if someone is visiting a poor’s house and making a mockery of his poverty. Since I’m an Indian my review might be considered a biased one, but my intention is just to be logical. After reading the initial few pages it appeared as if the writer i ...more
Carol
Jul 27, 2016 added it
There are no stars because it didn't deserve one!
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah MacDonald
-1 ★'s

From The Book:
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 post
...more
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Sarah Macdonald is an Australian journalist, author and radio presenter.

After completing a cadetship at ABC NewsRadio, Macdonald worked as Triple J's political correspondent in Canberra, later hosting its morning show. She has worked in television on programs such as Recovery, Race Around the World and Two Shot, and presented on radio station 702 ABC in Sydney. In 1999 Macdonald left Triple J, to
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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
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“The cycle of violence needs extreme love to break it.” 16 likes
“India is beyond statement, for anything you say, the opposite is also true. It's rich and poor, spiritual and material, cruel and kind, angry but peaceful, ugly and beautiful, and smart but stupid. It's all the extremes.” 11 likes
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