After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Columbus, Ohio-born lawyer Hamoudi decided to leave his cushy home behind to aid in reconstructing Iraq, his parents' homeland. Approaching his mission with trepidation and excitement, Hamoudi's plan-""to participate in the development of a brave new legal world in Iraq... a prosperous, stable, and bright future""-is abruptly supplanted by the need simply to understand his new environment; when asked by an American soldier if most Iraqis are on ""our side,"" Hamoudi is unsettled to realize ""I knew so little about what people were thinking about so fundamental a topic."" Hamoudi's two-year stay is related in punchy episodes, in which his ignorance and naivete are stripped away by small revelations and details: in one early scene he visits his family tomb, noting that in the past 25 years, every male relative but two died before age 50; in a much later episode, Hamoudi must hand-deliver each of his wedding invitations because there is no mail service. Despite finding Iraq a country of many disappointments, Hamoudi's dogged optimism makes repeat appearances, keeping himself, and the reader, from despair. Having called two very different countries home, Hamoudi proves an illuminating guide to the challenges, fears and minor victories that make up daily life in Iraq.