Book Review: “Holy Cow”

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Image not mine: from goodreads website

It’s about time I started doing more book reviews on Silly Goose.

Book reviews are something I’ve done quite a few of before, but these have tended to be scattered around here and there, never in the one place. Book reviews are also something I really enjoy doing, primarily as they combine reading, writing and giving my opinion on something I like 🙂

So on that note here is my first book review exclusively for this website, and that book is “Holy Cow” by David Duchovny.

Duchovny, of the X-Files and Californication fame, has been around as an actor for quite some time, so I had to at least investigate this first major literary offering; not least because of the title. Having read the outline, and who it was buy, I was intrigued enough to impatiently wait a month before downloading it onto my Kindle.

It is a novella-like tale of a talking cow called Elsie Bovary, (far from the only “cow” reference) who, apart from having a very human-like way of thinking, is your average cow, living in a field like your average cow, not knowing any different life, but whenever she starts to wonder why baby cows are taken away so quickly, soon followed by the cows themselves,  never to be seen again, she simply accepts this as a mysterious fact of life. But one day, wandering too near the farmhouse, she catches a horrific glimpse on TV of the reality of the human-run food chain.Elsie says some uncomplimentary, but undeniably reasonable, things about the human race. The term “humane” is perversely misguided to Elsie – and to everyone who knows something about what the modern food chain is really like: “Humans have to earn the right to be called animals again.”

Devastated by this new knowledge, Elsie begins planning to relocate to India, where she hears that cows are revered, and more importantly not eaten. Unable to keep from telling her best friend Mallory everything, including her plan, Mallory is shocked but still, for some reason, makes the decision to stay – presumably because she’s about to have a cow baby and the “nesting” instinct is more powerful than that to run away – but she urges Elsie to go, which results in an emotional departure. However, before long some others nearby catch onto, and want in on, the plan; Jerry the pig, who renames himself Shalom once he realises that pigs are, not quite revered, but are not eaten, in Israel, and Tom the turkey who decides on Turkey because… of the name of the place. So begins their journey, shared but separate, filled with much enlightenment and misadventure.

The “narrative voice” – which is Elsie recounting the tale with her editor giving her advice along the way – is a very young and naive one, which would have come across as immature, being peppered with lots of lingo associated with the text-speak generation, if she were not using it to tell a tale with a compelling message, and above all, a tale from the perspective of a cow who is being subject to the cruelty of the human world, and who simply wants to try and make a better life, and not to simply end up on a plate. I was expecting a totally different writing style, but I quickly got into the flow – and the misadventure.

I guess it’s glaringly obvious why this book would appeal to me (who doesn’t like talking animals who successfully disguise themselves as human in order to smuggle themselves on a plane..?) – I’m not sure whether or not “Holy Cow” has an intentionally pro-vegan message, but the most clear one is of the “circle of life”, encompassing humans and animals alike. In any case, it basically forces you to empathise with a would-be victim of the shadowy industry which carries out the acts which disturbs Elsie enough to run for her life in the first place. A thought-provoking globetrotting tale.

I’ll make myself leave it here so that the review remains spoiler-free…

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