I HAVE IRAQ IN MY SHOE

MISADVENTURES OF A SOLDIER OF FASHION

Surface-level, chick-lit–style memoir about the life of an English-language teacher in a small town in Iraq.

Like many Americans, Berg was laid off during the recession. When a former friend, Warren, offered her a job as a foreign-language teacher in Iraq, she accepted, realizing that she could eliminate her $40,000 credit-card debt while earning an $80,000 tax-free salary. Moving to another country would also give her a shot at finding her soul mate. Early on readers will learn about the author’s obsession with shoes, and eventually the extensive talk about footwear becomes tiresome and irrelevant, as does Berg’s frequent references to Scarlett O’Hara. Life in Erbil, a sleepy town with limited entertainment options, was difficult. Even though the author tried a few local restaurants and shops, she was most happy when drinking Diet Coke and shopping for luxury shoes online. Berg constantly fought to preserve her privacy in her company villa, which was often threatened by visits of higher-ups who needed a place to stay for the night when doing business in Erbil. The author eventually found some happiness when she fell for one of her students, an attractive boy 15 years her junior. However, she became suspicious of his motives when she learned that he wanted to move to America and needed someone to sponsor him. Eventually her employer fell on hard times and Berg was laid off. Around the same time she had the revelation that the only things she liked about Iraq were those that reminded her of the United States. Even though she earned the praise of her students and Warren, the author’s constant discussion of luxury goods overshadows any insights about her work as a teacher. There are a few funny stories and cultural observations (her discovery of virginity soap in the market), and her plan to repay her debt succeeded, but the shallow narrative could have used more pertinent observations about Iraq. More about the experience of a single professional American woman than about what life in Iraq has to offer an expat. Not recommended.  

 

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4022-6579-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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