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Book Review: I Have Iraq In My Shoe


I am not a fan of fashion How-To books in general. There are certainly a few pleasant or informative ones out there, but  often the advice is logical or too general to be of use to one person. As for fashionable novels, the characters seems shallow and the story line limp. I get press releases to review all sorts of these books. I'm never too excited about any of them, until I was sent, I Have Iraq in My Shoe: Misadventures of a Soldier of Fashion .

I know all about fashion, but I know very little of Iraq and even less about an Iraq high-fashion relationship. I have never been more intrigued by a fashionable book title. 

I Have Iraq In My Shoe is a memoir of a broke, fashion-conscious American woman who moves to Iraq for a high paying teaching job in order to pay of her extravagant credit card debt. After reading its 392 pages, I turned the book over and read its one sentence description. I chuckled immediately at the first word: irrelevant. How accurate! How delightfull that they own it! As I read the rest of the sentence, I realized I had misread. The first word of the one sentence description is not "irrelevant." It is "irreverent." Oops. Although I find the word irreverent is also accurate of this tale, the end of  the one-sentence description ends in complete disagreement with me. 

"Irreverent, hilarious and completely relevant." 

This memoir does give some insight on on the Kurdistan culture, but its collection of relevant information was minimum and, like most fashionable novels, the character is pretty shallow and the storyline uneventful. This should lead to an immediate trashing of the book, but the culprit of the dull book is also its savior. The author, Gretchen Berg, is a talented writer with a modern and robust sense of humor. I found myself immediately involved in the dull story, turning page after page. Even during the pathetic chapters involving a crush on a young student, I found it easy to keep reading. Is there anything intriguing about said crush? No. Does this make the main character look like an idiot? Yes. Do you see it going anywhere? Absolutely not. Does it go anywhere? Of course not. Do I keep turning the page? Sure! This is saying something. I am having a real difficulty reading these days. I had to renew my local library's edition of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by  Stieg Larsson twice and still had to return it a week late. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is a mind grabbing novel that begs to be read and yet I needed two months to complete it. I finished I Have Iraq In My Shoe in a week and it is not nearly as interesting. It's that smooth writing style I tell you, all concise and fun.

Back to the content… Danny Devito once said, "No one wants to look at a photo they are not in or hear about a dream they did not dream." Actually, I have no idea if Danny Devito actually said this and I am pretty sure I did not word this accurately. This is half-remembered third person knowledge via my friend Jempy. The point is, I Have Iraq In My Shoe reminds me of a photo I am not in and half the book is a list of complaints. Her luggage is lost. Her driver is late. She couldn't afford $500 shoes. There is no more diet coke. She was charged too much for something. Someone ate her sandwich. Yes, all this sucks. I feel stressed when my luggage is not where it is supposed to be. No one likes to wait for a ride. $500 shoes would be nice. I don't drink caffeinated drinks – I can't relate there, but I detest being over charged, and I do like a good sandwich of mine to stay mine. I don't talk about these things though, and I certainly don't write about them (until now). Why? Conversations and stories involving such things bore me, even when it involves me, I still finding it boring.  Last Summer, it took me 24 hours, numerous cars, a few flights, and one boat to get from Greece to San Diego, California. In between the cars, planes and boat I was in a wheel chair because two days before my departure I was thrown from a horse onto concrete, leaving me unable to walk. (I can walk now, by the way – whew!). When people asked about my trip home, I simply said it sucked. There really is nothing else to say about it. I'm sure I could write a book chapter about it, but just thinking about typing out the insignificant tale of my torturous travel bores me. If it's boring to write, it's even worse to read. 

Although there was some wonderful writing, one  laugh out loud moment and heaps of smile inspiring, self-deprecating wit, I learned next to nothing from I Have Iraq In My Shoe nor did it inspire me on any level. Humor is fabulous, but education and inspiration is kind of the point of my reading a book. And although I am positive the main character and author Gretchen Berg is a hoot in person, she does not translate well to paper. Her thoughts and accounts of her actions remind me of something that happened with my client last year. A client told me his company was going paperless. I asked him what he was going to do with the current paper files. He told me he shredded them. For some reason, I inquired about the step to follow the shredding. He looked confused and then declared he used the slim strips of paper to light fires in his fire place. Doesn't seem that interesting, right? Do you see any humor there? Not really, right? Well, I laugh about this all the time. I laughed just now typing it out. I can laugh at it because I was there for all its comedic nuances. There is no way I can retell this story  in a way that makes you laugh because the humor of the situation is not strong enough to survive the dilution of the retelling process. You had to be there. Same with Gretchen Berg. She comes off more whiny and shallow then witty and fabulous. The witty and fabulous aspects of Gretchen are implied throughout the book and even announced to you in certain sections, but it got watered down in translation. You had to be there.

Summary: You want an easy read? Pick it up for a plane ride or a vacation read. This is also a great book for someone wanting to get into reading. In fact, do you know a girly teen with a neglectful relationship with the written word? This is the perfect starter book.

My product reviews are my honest and personal opinion. I never accept payment for product reviews although I am given the sample to keep. If I am sent something that is unimpressive or boring I don’t write about it.

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