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Publisher's Summary

After backpacking her way around India, Sarah Macdonald decides she hates the country with a passion. When a beggar at the airport reads her palm and insists she will one day return, and for love, she screams "Never!" and gives the country, and him, the finger.

But 11 years later, the prophecy comes true. When the love of Sarah's life is posted to India, she quits her dream job as a national radio presenter to follow him to the most polluted city on earth, New Delhi. It seems like the ultimate sacrifice for love and it almost kills her, literally.

Often hilarious, sometimes hair-raising, and always entertaining, Holy Cow is a rollercoaster ride through a land of chaos and contradiction, from spiritual retreats and crumbling nirvanas to war zones and New Delhi nightclubs, that only a woman on a mission to save her soul, her love life, and her sanity, can survive.

©2002 Sarah Macdonald (P)2003 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Critic Reviews

"A lively, snappy travelogue." (Booklist) "[Macdonald] brings a reporter's curiosity, interviewing skills, and eye for detail to everything she encounters, and winningly captures 'the drama, the dharma, the innocent exuberance of the festivals, the intensity of the living, the piety in playfulness, and the embrace of living day by day'." (Publishers Weekly) "Prepare for a fast-moving and masterful narration by Kate Hosking. Her characterization of the Indian characters is nuanced and fun. The contrast with the distinctive Australian accents of MacDonald and other ex-pats adds to the sense of adventure and excitement and provides a backdrop for spiritual understanding." (AudioFile)

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  • Overall
  • Meredith
  • Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • 08-09-05

Inspiring and witty

After listening to this book, I have put India at the top of my "places to visit" list. I didn't realize the book would emphasize religion so much, but this had the unexpected side effect of making me feel as if I'd learned something in addition to enjoying Macdonald's hilarious accounts of her attempts to survive in and eventually master Indian culture.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Michelle
  • Mount Horeb, WI, USA
  • 09-11-06

a great listen!

I read this book prior to getting the audio and have to say that the audio made the book light-up like a Christmas tree! All the Hindu words and pronunciations were brought to life by the narrator, as well as doing a fine job on the author's emotional states as well.
I liked the book but loved the audiobook!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Fun and provocative portrait

This audiobook was delightful. The narrator did a terrific job with the variety of accents (Australian, Indian, American), and the pace was lively. I am not religious, but I enjoyed the thoughtful portrayal of the many religions observed in India. I also felt like I had a better understanding of the country and culture. I have met many Indian immigrants through school and work, and this book gave me some perspective on their life back at home. At times the author is a bit narcissistic, but her good humor and continuous pursuit of self knowledge balance it out.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Well Written and Well Read

Having been to India a number of times I found this book insightful, funny and honest. It's well written and well read making for a very enjoyable listen.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I listen to this book when I wish I were travelling but don't have the time or money. The first chapter made me wonder what I had gotten myself into, as she rages about how much she hates India. If you can get past this you'll realize that this is to juxtapose next to the spiritual journey the author later undertakes to better understand where her hate and anger come from. And the author is honest about how her western judgments of India soften and turn inside out the longer she is there and the more she tries to understand. This was a really brave but totally fun effort of a westerner trying to come to terms with her assumptions about a culture wildly different (but in some surprising ways similar) that her own. Her descriptions of holi still colour my dreams!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

An excellent listen

Holy Cow is a fantastically funny listen. It is vivid in its descriptions of the sounds, sights and especially smells of India. It inspires you both to go there and enjoy home, at the same time. If you love travel writing which attempts to get to the heart of culture and the person taking the journey, get this book. It's one of my all time favourites.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Lisa
  • Bayside, NY, United States
  • 06-01-05


Sarah MacDonald is truly a gifted writer. Holy Cow! is a skillfully structured story of her coming of age in India as she investigates, describes, and beings to embody with (sometimes profound) insight and humor a wide variety of India's religions, saints, and spiritual practices and communities. The book is a vibrant comparative religion text. And the narrator's talent is awesome.

17 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • connie
  • Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 06-12-09

Eat, Meditate, Sweat

-enjoyable and often humorous pilgrimage through much of India's religious and cultural diversity by an Australian journalist, first world biases intact (but at least acknowledged). I could often hear the sounds, see the sites (and smell the odours) described by the Aussie narrator. I understand that the print version offended some readers, but I think the narrator manages to keep her tongue firmly in her cheek so that fewer listeners may be offended by the Aussie outsider "cheeky" tone-- a tone which never has the pretence of entering any lasting state of high enlightenment, just betterment of her human condition while trying to avoid cultural appropriation.

Although a 30-something, the author's lifestyle would appeal to youth culture (a causal acceptance of pot as part of some of the encountered seekers' spiritual quests, etc.), so perhaps avoid this download if you are the staid literalist type, of any faith tradition.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A remarkable spiritual travelogue

This is a remarkable spiritual travelogue. Very very funny in places, yet the author's broad-minded inquisitiveness of all the diverse religious and cultural traditions of India are very meaningful.
The book is not merely arm-chair travel, it gives a lot to think about including political and religious disputes in our world. High recommended!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Christina
  • Harlingen, TX, United States
  • 12-22-05

finding the way

Exceptional audio, wonderful authentic accents. The author's candid descriptions are eloquent, including her own reactions and struggle to understand and practice various disciplines and social norms. I learned much more about today's India and possibly more about myself. Thoroughly enjoyable.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • Paul
  • 07-28-06

Worth a read

Having travelled to India and worked there (got to love that driving), if only for a short time with my job, I found myself chuckling away merrily to this a great deal. It perfectly portrays the chaos that surrounded my visit there and I found constant parallels between the authors experiences and my own.
For some reason though I found it really hard to get through and took nearly a month to listen to it. Some of this was my doing but some of it was the story is pretty much one level throughout and samey.
I'm not sure about the religious stuff, Im sure some will take offence although I don't see any malice, just observation.
Well worth the read and the time.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mary
  • 09-29-06


Having also been to India I was disappointed when listening to this book.
It leaves out so much of the joy of this unique country, but maybe I'm biased.
Worth listening to however.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Holly C.
  • 02-21-17

I love it already and I'm only halfway into chap 1

love the authors voice (beautifully brought to life by narrator too) the way she tells it is fast paced witty and palpable.

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  • alwayssmiling
  • 10-21-15

Great introduction to India

I am going to India for my first visit and this book was recommended as an introduction. It seems to give a good description of the country, the people and the different cultures and religions. I feel I have a better understanding of what to expect from everyday life. There really are a lot of experiences in this book too. A great insight.

  • Overall
  • Amanda
  • 10-10-12

A good read.

If you have been to India you will love this book. If you are going then its a good read before hand. Or take it if you are to go! It brings Indian with all its colour, tastes, and issues back to your mind. And leads you into another life. A world away.

  • Overall
  • Rowan
  • 05-11-10

This womans voice is agony

Couldnt sound less interested and makes the whole experience sound mundane and a pain in the arse. She has one accent for every single Indian person male or female. People tell me its a fun enjoyable book but I scraped by the first 4 hours over a 6 week period when usually go through one this long in 2 days with my job but iv given up. I cant stand her.

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  • Naomi
  • 02-12-10

Thumbs Up

If you're looking for a fun easy-to-listen-to story and are interested in India and its myriad cultures and religions this may be for you. The narration is consistant and expressive, which makes visualisation an easy feat.

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  • Esther
  • 01-17-18

really fun read I loved her transformation

from being critical to embracing, the enlightenment of Sarah during her stay was lovely to read about

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 10-11-17

Fantastic journey!

Really enjoyed listening to Holy Cow, felt as though I was taken on a journey through India.

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  • alison
  • 09-26-15

Thoroughly enjoyable !

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book, as some travel biographies can feel like a bit of an ego trip for the author. This one felt honest and heartfelt, with a warts and all approach that I liked. I felt included in the story, as though I was there with her sharing the sights, smells, sounds and experiences.
The whole thing was brought together so well with Kate Hosking's excellent narration.

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  • Krissy J
  • 04-18-15

Heartwarming & hilarious

Such a great book to listen to, partly due to Sarah's great story telling ability... But also due to the narrator's excellent use of tone, pace & voices! Very enjoyable & eye opening experience.

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  • ashleigh
  • 03-29-15

A very true description

I was in India myself for 3 months, the short time I was there is just as described in this great book.

The narrator does a fantastic job with the voices of characters.