Finalist for the National Book Award, The Yellow Birds is the harrowing story of two young soldiers trying to stay alive in Iraq.
"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.
Kevin Powers is the author of The Yellow Birds, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Guardian First Book Award, and was a National Book Award Finalist, as well as Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting, a collection of poetry. He 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.
What People are Saying About This
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. The music of his prose has an exquisite mixture of control and then release which mirrors the action of the book, and the psychological and physical pressures under which the characters are placed.
Is there such a thing as a 1,000 word blurb? Because my admiration for this book is so deep that I have one. But start here: The Yellow Birds is a superb novel. Call it a war novel or a first novel or whatever you'd like. Powers has created a powerful work of art that captures the complexity and life altering realities of combat service. This book will endure. Read it and then put it way up on that high rare shelf alongside Ernest Hemingway and Tim O'Brien. --Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
Robert Olen Butler
We haven't just been waiting for a great novel to come out of the Iraq War, our 21st century Vietnam; we have also been waiting for something more important, a work of art that illuminates our flawed and complex and striving humanity behind all such wars. At last we have both in Kevin Powers' The Yellow Birds.
The minute I read Kevin Powers's marvelous first sentence'The war tried to kill us in the spring'I knew I was in the hands of an exceptional writer. That line is right up there with 'Call me Ishmael.' And I wasn't disappointed. Powers's poetic gifts render the experience of Americans in Iraq with great emotional intensity. War has been a subject of literature ever since The Iliad. The best books transcend their time and circumstances to say something enduring and truthful about war itself. The Yellow Birds belongs in that category. --Philip Caputo, author of A Rumor of War
The most recent war is much like the most ancient, torn bodies, cracked psyches, the emotional roundelay of pride, pain, confusion and sorrow. In The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers has delivered an exceptional novel from the war in Iraq, written in clean, evocative prose, lyric and graphic, in assured rhythms, a story for today and tomorrow and the next. --Daniel Woodrell, author of The Outlaw Album
Remarkable for its intensity of both feeling and expression. In this book about death, every line is a defiant assertion of the power of beauty to revivify, whether beauty shows itself in nature or (later) in art. Graves, Owen, and Sassoon would have recognised this war and the strange poetry it has bred.
In the great tradition of Hemingway and Tim O'Brien, Kevin Powers's exquisitely written The Yellow Birds draws us in to the combat zones of Iraq: the watch, the wait ("Stay alive, Stay alert"), the bungle, the slaughter, and the irreparable aftermath.
The Yellow Birds is the All Quiet on the Western Front of America's Arab wars.—Tom Wolfe
Reading The Yellow Birds I became certain that I was in the presence of a text that will win plaudits, become a classic, and hold future narratives of the war to a higher standard....a superb literary achievement.
This is a novel I've been waiting for. The Yellow Birds is born from experience and rendered with compassion and intelligence.
The Yellow Birds is harrowing, inexplicably beautiful, and utterly, urgently necessary. --Ann Patchett
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