I HAVE IRAQ IN MY SHOE by Gretchen Berg


Misadventures of a Soldier of Fashion
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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 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4022-6579-2
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2012


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