When Gods Collide by Kate James – Book Review

I’ve not travelled to India. It’s always struck me as being a pilgrimage. I’ve known many people who have gone for a spiritual journey, and I’m not into all that. Despite discussing a wide range of religious experiences, When Gods Collide planted the idea that I could travel around India without worrying about accidentally becoming enlightened.

Kate James was raised in India in an evangelical Christian community. Later in life, she embraced atheism. She discusses feeling displaced, identifying as Australian as a child but coming home to an unfamiliar world. Even now, it seems that she is unsure of how she feels about India. The book often compares her experiences as a child to those as an adult, and I found that became repetitive. Perhaps it is because many of the comparisons seemed to be functional, briefly comparing these experiences to introduce a new location or to show that things have changed.

When Gods Collide was a delight to read. I really enjoyed Kate James’ voice, so much that I wanted more of this book – more detail on the experiences that she had, more about the people she met (and perhaps a little less on her own inner journey) and more about Graham Staines and his sons. The murder of Staines and his sons is mentioned regularly throughout the book, but I felt that it was always teasing that there was going to be a stronger resolution. I wanted there to be a sense of understanding about why he was killed. By the end of the book, I didn’t have a good idea of what the author had gained from the journey, or what she had learnt about the death of Staines. I would have loved another hundred pages and that greater depth.

I’m pleased to have been introduced to the work of Kate James, and I am very keen on reading her first book, Women of the Gobi. I can’t wait to read more of her writing, whatever part of the world she takes me to. The epilogue paints a delightful picture of Preston – perhaps she doesn’t need to go too far.

When Gods Collide will be released In February by Hardie Grant books. For further reviews, check out the new Hardie Grant Bookclub – my review will be appearing there in the coming days or weeks!

2 Comments

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2 responses to “When Gods Collide by Kate James – Book Review

  1. Julie

    Graeme Staines was murdered for political reasons as Kate did explain. There are Hindu extremist groups (just as there are Christian, Muslim and Jewish ones world over) who want India for Hindus only and see missionaries as converting people to a ‘foreign’ religion. Ignorant pople are easily stirred up by rhetoric about this. Also Orissa has troubles over land -the tribal people have been there forever but others want to develop it (mines etc) so somewhere that plays into it. Kate’s view of india I found surprisingly shallow and uninformed and she seemed to scorn any people who want to go there to travel or study in yoga schools etc. Actually it is a fascinating, many layered, ancient civilisation that has given the world 2 great philosophical religions (Hinduism and Buddhism) and in more recent centuries been ruled by two of the most powerful world empires, the Islamic and the British. It’s both beautiful and terrible and has an unbelievable range of climates, geography, and peoples.It’s ‘enlightening’ in ways you may not expect, as it gives you a whole new view of the world and raises many questions, is very challenging to those who are thoughtful and overwhelming to just about anyone. I found Kate’s dismissal of foreign travellers and writers such as Elizabeth Gilbert (without her having even read the book!) really irritating.

    • Very interesting comment – thanks, Julie! It’s interesting that several months have passed since I read this book and I remember very little of it at all. I guess some books just make more of an impression than others.

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