Synopses & Reviews
A novel written by a veteran of the war in Iraq, The Yellow Birds
is the harrowing story of two young soldiers trying to stay alive.
"The war tried to kill us in the spring." So begins this powerful account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city. Bound together since basic training when Bartle makes a promise to bring Murphy safely home, the two have been dropped into a war neither is prepared for.
In the endless days that follow, the two young soldiers do everything to protect each other from the forces that press in on every side: the insurgents, physical fatigue, and the mental stress that comes from constant danger. As reality begins to blur into a hazy nightmare, Murphy becomes increasingly unmoored from the world around him and Bartle takes actions he could never have imagined.
With profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on mothers and families at home, The Yellow Birds is a groundbreaking novel that is destined to become a classic.
"This moving debut from Powers (a former Army machine gunner) is a study of combat, guilt, and friendship forged under fire. Pvt. John Bartle, 21, and Pvt. Daniel Murphy, 18, meet at Fort Dix, N.J., where Bartle is assigned to watch over Murphy. The duo is deployed to Iraq, and the novel alternates between the men's war zone experiences and Bartle's life after returning home. Early on, it emerges that Murphy has been killed; Bartle is haunted by guilt, and the details of Murphy's death surface slowly. Powers writes gripping battle scenes, and his portrait of male friendship, while cheerless, is deeply felt. As a poet, the author's prose is ambitious, which sets his treatment of the theme apart as in this musing from Bartle: 'though it's hard to get close to saying what the heart is, it must at least be that which rushes to spill out of those parentheses which were the beginning and end of my war.' The sparse scene where Bartle finally recounts Murphy's fate is masterful and Powers's style and story are haunting. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The All Quiet on the Western Front of America's Arab wars." Tom Wolfe
"Thoughtful and analytical, the novel resonates as an accurate and deeply felt portrayal of the effects of post-combat syndrome as experienced by soldiers in the disorienting war in Iraq." Library Journal, starred review
The Yellow Birds is harrowing, inexplicably beautiful, and utterly, urgently necessary." Ann Patchett
"A remarkable first novel...The Yellow Birds is brilliantly observed and deeply affecting: at once a freshly imagined bildungsroman about a soldier's coming of age, a harrowing story about the friendship of two young men trying to stay alive on the battlefield in Iraq, and a philosophical parable about the loss of innocence and the uses of memory....Extraordinary." The New York Times
"This is a novel I've been waiting for. The Yellow Birds is born from experience and rendered with compassion and intelligence." Alice Sebold
"Kevin Powers' The Yellow Birds is written with an intensity which is deeply compelling; every moment, every memory, every object, every move, are conjured up with a fierce and exact concentration and sense of truth." Colm Toibin
"Compelling, brilliantly written, and heart-breakingly true, The Yellow Birds belongs in the same category as Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead. Thus far the definitive novel of our long wars in the Middle East; this book is certain to be read and taught for generations to come." Philipp Meyer, author of American Rust
"A novel about the poetry and the pity of war....Powers writes with a rawness that brings the sights and smells as well as the trauma and decay of war home to the reader." Kirkus
About the Author
Kevin Powers was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, and holds an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a Michener Fellow in Poetry. He served in the US Army in 2004 and 2005 in Iraq, where he was deployed as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar. This is his first novel.