Thanks to Ilona Nicola for the very first book club review of When Gods Collide!
“Was I just as bad as Elizabeth Gilbert and all the condescending seekers before her?”
Despite Kate James’ protestations, When Gods Collide: An unbeliever’s pilgrimage along India’s Coromandel Coast is a story about a woman’s search for belonging – to place, to religion, and to community.
The book centres on the life of Kate James, a child raised among missionaries, who returns to her childhood country of India, to explore the context behind the murder of Graham Staines, a missionary burned alive by Hindu activists while asleep in his car with his two sons.
James travels along the Coromandel Coast of India, from Ooty to Darjeeling, exploring the multiplicity of religious, spiritual, political and personal drivers of the people that she meets, in order to comprehend the motives behind Staines’ murder. In doing so, she also inevitably questions her own beliefs and comes to terms with her own spirituality.
When Gods Collide is rich with James’ meticulous observations and evocative descriptions of India’s complex and challenging environment. From the “rickshaw drivers speaking on mobile phones” to the young man described as a “plump-faced, pillow-lipped, dark-eyed young-Elvis type”, the reader is carefully taken on the journey alongside its author.
However, it is James’ shrewd observations about her childhood within an “expatriate evangelical bubble” which makes this story so compelling. Having turned her back on the faith of her childhood, she searches for good in the work of missionaries like Staines, to “pull up [her] emotional stumps” and free herself of a need to be accepted.
A convincing and at times, very brave account, When Gods Collide is guaranteed to inspire its reader.
Like Ilona’s writing? Check out her blog at ilonanicola.wordpress.com