Originally posted May 27, 2013
Gretchen Berg is the perfect heroine: witty in the face of cultural adversity, fashionable yet demure when necessary, and relatable in the most bizarre of circumstances. Oh wait, I Have Iraq in My Shoe is a memoir. Gerts (as she hates to be called) is an award-winning writer, a Cancer with Scorpio rising, and one of the funniest authors I’ve ever stumbled upon.
I Have Iraq in My Shoe documents Gretchen’s time in Iraq as an English teacher. She didn’t enter naively: she’s traveled the world teaching and spent a small fortune on shoes. Who could turn down an incredible salary with free housing for just the small commitment of living thousands of miles from home in a war-torn country that treats women differently than in the US? Plus Iraq is conveniently located near The Rest of Europe, and chances were strong she’d stumble across her soul mate. Win/win/win situation. Except for the part about women’s rights. Let’s just forget about that one and keep our eyes on the prize, readers.
Written in a style cleverly similar to Bridget Jones’ Diary, Gretchen’s story jumps off the pages with laugh-out-loud situations so funny they must be true. She gives updates at the end of every chapter keeping score and the reader up-to-date on debt paid off, fees paid for overweight luggage, shoes purchased, soul mates met and more. Her students range from clever to sexy, uncommitted to inspiring. The writing is utterly addictive.
Pair I Have Iraq in My Shoe with Heller Estate Organic Vineyard’s 2009 Late Harvest Riesling. Heller Estate was one of the first organic vineyards in California, and their wholesome and natural wines hold a mirror to Gretchen’s true to life hilarity. The crisp flavor cuts through, while the sweet desert finish will leave you smiling as you savor every last word.
To set the mood, I leave you with this gem from 2007 when Miss South Carolina set the mood for this incredible read by coining the phrase “The Iraq”: