The Yellow Birds

The Yellow Birds

by Kevin Powers

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316219358
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 09/11/2012
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 135,932
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

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. 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. This is his first collection of poetry.

What People are Saying About This

Colm Toibin

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.

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.

Anthony Swofford

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.

Philip Caputo

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

Daniel Woodrell

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.

Hilary Mantel

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.

Edna O'Brien

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.

Chris Cleave

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.

Tom Wolfe

The All Quiet on the Western Front of America's Arab wars.

Alice Sebold

This is a novel I've been waiting for. The Yellow Birds is born from experience and rendered with compassion and intelligence.

Ann Patchett

The Yellow Birds is harrowing, inexplicably beautiful, and utterly, urgently necessary.

Customer Reviews

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The Yellow Birds: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 79 reviews.
JerseyJoe More than 1 year ago
This is one powerful novel ! It is intense, soul-searching and shocking . I finished it last night and it is still inside my head , consuming my thoughts . It is not an easy read . Stay with it ; you will be deeply moved . I had absolutely no idea what our troops faced on a daily basis in Iraq ; this novel opened my eyes . I believe every politician who so easily advocates placing America's Sons and Daughters in harm's way should read this novel .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book about the unraveling or at least the confusion of moral values that a war inflicts on its young soldiers is a very powerful anti-war statement. It puts a real face on post traumatic stress syndrome. Kevin Powers writes well and does a beautiful job of contrasting the beauty of nature with the baseness of war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is purely amazing book best of it kind, no doubt.
bookbilly More than 1 year ago
A foot soldier, who enlists in the army for ambiguous reasons, experiences the mind numbing disillusioning impact of the horrors of combat. Nothing new about that, but here the story is enhanced by prose laced with the dense metaphors and similies of poetry. That's not surprising based on the author's actual combat experience in Iraq and poetry training. This is certainly a powerful and thoughtful anti-war novel that avoids veering off into the politics of our involvement. But the main character's internal dialogues on the meaningless of it all became repetitious and perhaps tedious. There are better nonfiction alternatives on the subject. War by Sebastian Junger and The Good Soldiers by David Finkel come to mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An absolutely compelling, mesmerizing novel that would read more rapidly, save the desire to re-read nearly every sentence, because of its beauty and power. The finest, grittiest, prose I have read in a war novel.  The book tells more with its terse economy of words and sculpted phrases than any novel four times its length.  A marvelous read, indeed!    d       .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is very affecting and painful. It is very short, more a novelette rather than novel yet it reads as a full novel. In some way that may sound like and insult but it is not how it is intended. The story told is simply larger than the number of actual pages that makes up the novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very insightful into a soldier's experience in war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had a major book hang over after reading this book. It gave me a much larger understanding of my Brother and others whom go threw war. I've little by little asked my brother about certain parts and he says there spot on. Thank you for this amazingly insiteful book!
JJSteven More than 1 year ago
Very intense and captivating. This was definitely not what I was expecting when I first picked it up, but the transitions in time really made this story flow perfectly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Yellow Birds ranks with the great war novels of all time. It is an "All Quiet on the Western Front" for the Iraq war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book after hearing a glowing review and interesting interview of the author on NPR. I was, however, disappointed and lost interest half way through. In places I was unable to follow the imagery and thought it overwhelmed the plot and characterization. I wanted to like this book but in the end put it down permanently. Maybe I've been away from poetry too long.
TakeMeAway More than 1 year ago
Insightful and really gives you a feeling of what it's like to be at war. Beautifully written!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Powers create a strong story that is disturbing on many levels. His characters are intriguingly flawed; and will live in your memory. I would recommend this book for book club discussions.
LaurenAileen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I got this book at BEA and decided to read it first because I had seen the media blitz both there and on Shelf Awareness. Despite the author's poetic writing style and his flowing descriptions, this book describes horrors of war that are disturbing and gruesome. Bartle, the narrator, is asked by his Sargeant to keep a watch on the new soldier, Murphy. The two become inseparable during the war, while both slowly slipping into madness over the things they've had to both see and do.I was taken aback by the fact that while this is a novel, there are so many people experiencing these same things. The story continues past the point where Bartle is released from duty, living a life taken over by PTSD- waking up floating in rivers, seeing signs of a childhood he can't quite remember, and drinking himself into a hole. While the book, a debut novel, isn't the most perfectly-written piece of literature (at times, he seems to purposely be describing something horrifying in a beautiful, poetic way, which can seem contrived for "shock value"), the book is still powerful and well worth the read. It will make you look at war (and soldiers) in a different light.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is sad
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Smiled and went to bed. <ph> Gtgtb bby
cocobelle More than 1 year ago
When you begin, you feel that you can hardly bear to read it, but soon the writing and the deeply drawn descriptions capture you and make you care. Then you can hardly bear to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JAL2 More than 1 year ago
This is a moving story about two young men who enlist in the Army and serve in Iraq. This is the first book I've read on this subject that focuses on the enlisted soldiers and their experiences. It will change the way you think about those who served in the Afghanistan/Iraq wars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book The Yellow Birds is a book for the ages. On par with The Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet on the Western Front, this is a story about a man fighting in the Iraq War who over time becomes disillusioned with the idea of war and the effects that it has on the soldiers fighting in it. Through the eyes of Pvt. Bartle, the reader can see and truly understand the mentality of a soldier that very few books have done before. This is truly a story that everybody should read. Although the novel does have its action, the real story is the mind of Pvt. Bartle. At home and in Iraq, the mind of a soldier is explored intimately in a way that modern readers can understand and sympathize with. If you have not picked up a copy yet, I would recommend that you do so now. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this novel to anyone who has read &ldquo;All Quiet on the Western Front&rdquo;. &ldquo;The Yellow Birds&rdquo; is a very intense novel that shows what war really is. Kevin Powers did an exceptional job writing this novel and does an amazing job describing what war can do to a person&rsquo;s mind. This novel gives the reader an inside look at the war in Iraq and takes you inside the mind of a soldier. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago