Honestly, I did not know what to expect from a book written by David Duchovny, titled “Holy Cow” and with the drawing of a pretty wacky cow on the cover. Well, I must confess that reading this debut novel turned out to be an incredible and exciting surprise page after page.
The main character – and narrative voice of the story – is Elsie, a cow living in a farm north of New York. Life is happy for Elsie at the farm, until one day she finds out the ugly truth about what fate awaits her: slaughter. Thus, she runs away. Away where? Why, to India of course, where cows are sacred animals and therefore untouchable. Elsie is joined in her adventure by Shalom, a Jewish pig who wants to go to Israel, and Tom, a turkey headed to Turkey. Using a map, a smartphone, skillfully operated by Tom with his beak, and a few disguises, the unlikely trio begins their journey, they get to JFK airport and board a plane headed to the other side of the world in search of a place where they can be safe.
Nothing is what it seems in this tale. David Duchovny proves to be an acute observer of modern society and he uses this story to describe the world from a different perspective, Elsie’s, and in doing so he offers the reader interesting points for reflection.
At a certain moment in the story, shocked by what she has learned about the treatment humans inflict to her kind, Elsie wonders why people keep making the same mistakes repeatedly, mistakes they are aware of and know so well. Clearly, they do not care. Why? Maybe because human beings judge their actions only through the selfish lens of opportunism and not with the eyes of the heart.
Duchovny does not go easy on modern technologies, whose supposed aim is to unite people, while in reality they end up being very effective tools to bring them apart, if used wrongly.
Television – “the Box God” in Elsie’s words – is described as a sort of God-like figure before which everyone falls silent and stands still. Many human beings own one of these boxes in their rooms, where they lock themselves away, in solitude, to listen to this deity, one that separates people rather than uniting them, as Elsie puts it.
It is no coincidence Duchovny had pitched the idea to both Disney and Pixar in the past. However, what might look like a book for children is clearly intended for an adult audience instead.
Elsie’s journey is a means to describe that inner growth and increasing awareness we all should experience in our lives. If we already know what the problems afflicting the world are, why don’t we try to solve them? Why are we all so selfishly focused on letting our own ego shine? Why do we have to hide behind a cell phone or a computer in order to communicate? Why do we only understand what we have when we risk losing it?
Right, why is it?
David Duchovny writes a witty, intelligent, smart and very funny book, one that will stay in your heart once you read it. We have always known him as an actor, occasionally as a director and a screenwriter, but, if this is the result, then really the writer in him should be let loose more often.
I underlined quite a few passages in the book while reading it, including the final words, which in a way sum up the whole sense of Elsie’s journey – words that I am not going to reveal here of course. But I would like to finish off quoting a couple of those passages that were particularly meaningful to me:
- “So I guess it’s not important that dreams come true, it’s important that you have a dream to begin with, to get you to take your first steps.”
- “Don’t hate. Hate is like a poison you make for your enemy that you end up swallowing yourself.”
You can find “Holy Cow” on Amazon at this address also as an audio file and for Kindle.
Translated by Giusy