PERSONAL: Female; married Jonathan Harley (a journalist). Education: Studied psychology in college.
CAREER: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, radio and television journalist and program host, 1990-99, 2002—. Has worked as a correspondent, presenter, and host on television and radio programs, including Youth Networks Arts Show, Morning Show, Recovery, Race around the World, Two Shot, and Bush Telegraph.
AWARDS, HONORS: Shortlisted for Book of the Year, Australian Bookseller's Association/Nielsen Book Data, 2002, for Holy Cow! An Indian Adventure.
Holy Cow! An Indian Adventure (memoir), Bantam Books (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Sarah Macdonald took a break from her career as a broadcast journalist in Australia to join her boyfriend (and future husband) Jonathan Harley, also a journalist, in India at the end of 1999. Initially intending to stay for six months, Macdonald spent two and a half years there. She chronicles this period, and her evolving attitude toward India, in Holy Cow! An Indian Adventure.
Macdonald had hated India when she had visited a decade earlier, and on this trip, her first reaction was the same: she was disgusted by the country's crowds, poverty, and lack of sanitation. Then she came down with double pneumonia and had an epiphany. "It literally forced me to stop and think how I was going to cope with the country," she told Liz Van Den Nieuwenhof in an interview for the Sydney Sunday Telegraph. "I knew I had to find a way of being happy there and not to be seen as some whingeing white Westerner in her little sanctuary of wealth." Macdonald's strategy included exploring the many religious faiths practiced in India—Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, and others—each of which held some charm for Macdonald, who described herself as previously contemptuous of religion. She also made some close friends in India, explored nightclubs, and left with an understanding and appreciation of the country.
Macdonald's memoir finds a great deal of humor in various aspects of Indian life, such as how people drive and the Hindus' sacred animal, the cow. Several reviewers remarked upon this aspect of the book. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Holy Cow! a "cheekily observant chronicle" that is "not long on instruction, though Macdonald gets the other half of the travel-literature equation: vast entertainment." Booklist reviewer Kristine Huntley, meanwhile, called the book "a lively, snappy travelogue." Ravi Shenoy, writing in Library Journal, found Macdonald's views of India "fresh and entertaining," but deemed her discussions of religion excessively "superficial." A Publishers Weekly critic, however, saw substance in the volume, noting that as Macdonald becomes more familiar with India, "she trades her sometimes glib remarks . . . for a more sensitive tone and a sober understanding." Overall, the critic concluded, Macdonald "winningly captures" the many facets of India.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Macdonald, Sarah, Holy Cow! An Indian Adventure, Bantam Books (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2002.
Booklist, March 15, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of Holy Cow! An Indian Adventure, p. 1261.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of HolyCow!, p. 118.
Library Journal, April 15, 2004, Ravi Shenoy, review of Holy Cow!, p. 112.
Publishers Weekly, March 1, 2004, review of HolyCow!, p. 60.
Sunday Telegraph (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), October 13, 2002, Liz Van Den Nieuwenhof, "Karma Chameleon," p. 20.
Australian Broadcasting Company Web site,http://ww.abc.net.au/ (September 13, 2004), "Sarah Macdonald."
Palm One eBook Store,http://ebooks.palmone.com/ (August 25, 2004), "Sarah Macdonald."*