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


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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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