Reviews of my favorite books written by expatriates, journalists, and diplomats on what it's really like to live abroad

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book Review: Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah MacDonald

I had no idea how much I would love this book when I bought it, rather automatically, when my husband informed me we'd be stopping in India for a few days on our way to Nepal. But then, I never expected to love India either. I thought it would be smelly, messy, and overwhelming. And so it was, but now I'm crazy for the place.

Which, funnily enough, is exactly how Sarah MacDonald felt. A successful morning TV show host, at 33 she left her career behind to follow her boyfriend to India when he landed a key position there for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. While he hustled for stories and airtime, she found herself a housewife in an unexpected country.

Luckily for us, unlike many writers Sarah's extremely outgoing, making friends with all sorts of people including Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Parsis, Punjabis, servants, and millionaires. As she had neither a job nor children during the two+ years she was in India, she used all the time for adventures, including a stint as an extra in Bollywood (where she got to meet Mr B himself)... exploring Delhi's nightlife for young unmarried women... visiting ashrams, meditation centers and religious festivals... and being a guest of honor at several weddings. She also explored the joys of local medicine by falling seriously ill early on, and tagged along on reporting trips to Kashmir and Pakistan.

Although this sounds like a lot of activity (and it is), the book isn't a 'visiting India' tourism guide so much as it is an intimate - and often very funny - personal diary that's at its heart a coming of age story, from busy yuppie to contemplative woman.

You'll like this book if you:

- Enjoy witty British/Australian-style writing.

- Would like a woman's perspective on India, especially tales and insights from strong girlfriend friendships with natives.

- You've considered visiting Delhi, or an Indian religious festival, guru or center and you'd like a scales-off-the-eyes truthful account of what it's really like.

- You're crazy for Bollywood movies.

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