Kirkus Reviews

In this debut memoir, an author combines the recorded recollections of her mother with her own travel experiences while developing promotions for DreamWorks Animation. 

Newton’s father, Don, was an oil driller. In 1956, he worked for the Iraq Petroleum Company, a consortium of major oil concerns from the Netherlands, France, Britain, and the United States. He was stationed in a huge base camp located outside Kirkuk in the northeastern corner of Iraq. In late December of that year, his wife, Lorraine, and their four young daughters left their home in Lakewood, California, and joined him in Iraq, where they remained until February 1962. Despite the unrest that swirled around the Middle East, the Newton family was beginning a great odyssey. Every two years, Don was entitled to a four-week home leave, which presented an opportunity for the family to enjoy some European exploration on the way back to California. Of the four girls, Newton spent the longest time in Iraq. Her older sisters were eventually placed in boarding schools in England. For Lorraine, these five-plus years were the experience of a lifetime; for Newton, who was only 3 years old when the family relocated to Iraq, they set the stage for a future filled with worldwide travel. Except for some introductory material, each chapter of the memoir begins with transcripts of Lorraine’s recordings, followed by specific and engaging anecdotes from the author’s personal journeys that trigger memories of her mother and childhood. The occasionally repetitive chapters end with Newton finding a church or sometimes a beach, where she lights a candle in gratitude to her mother for giving her different gifts that have helped her navigate her life: “I thanked her for teaching me to see people as good and kind, for indeed most are.” Certainly, the most intriguing sections of the joyful book are those detailing the Newton’s singular lives within a protected, multinational enclave in the Iraqi desert, and the behind-the-scenes glimpses into the DreamWorks retail promotional endeavors.

An articulate, buoyant, and often humorous account involving family life and globe-trotting adventures.