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The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
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The Yellow Birds (2012)

by Kevin Powers

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1,4331198,185 (3.77)216
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English (111)  German (2)  Danish (2)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (118)
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
This book gave me an idea of what it's like to serve in Iraq, but the way it was written was just too confusing. It jumps around from serving in the war to post war. The author's descriptions were wonderful, and that's what kept me reading. I just didn't care enough about the characters. If more time had been spent developing the characters, I would have enjoyed it more. ( )
  Beth.Clarke | Jun 28, 2019 |
Kevin Powers's "The Yellow Birds" is about two young soldiers--Private John Bartle, twenty-one, and Private Daniel Murphy, eighteen. In the novel's opening, both are in Al Tafar, Iraq, and about to take part in a bloody battle to re-take the city--September 2004.

The book then flips back to December 2003, at Fort Dix, New Jersey, before they ship out to Iraq. Private Murphy's mother comes to visit and the fulcrom that this novel pivots on takes place during a conversation between Bartle, and Murphy's mother Donna before they ship out to Iraq.

"And you're gonna look out for him, right?" she asked.
"Um, yes, ma'am."
"And Daniel, he's doing a good job?"
"Yes, ma'am, very good. How the hell should I know, lady? I wanted to say. I barely knew the guy. Stop. Stop asking me questions. I don't want to be accountable. I don't know anything about this.
"John, promise me you'll take care of him."
"Of course." Sure, sure I thought. Now you reassure me and I'll go back and go to bed.
"Nothings gonna happen to him, right? Promise that you'll bring him back home to me."
"I promise," I said. "I promise I'll bring him back home to you."

Private John Bartle has just a made a promise you know he won't be able to keep. I kept reading, waiting for the moment when Bartle's promise would be permanently broken and then read the rest of the novel to see how Bartle dealt with the ramifications of his broken promise.

Powers's is a strong, lyrical writer. He has an MFA in poetry and it shows in his writing. His writing places you where Private Bartle is: a battle, the desert, Europe after he leaves Iraq, back in the States where his actions in Iraq catch up to him.

The novel moves between 2004--when the two are stationed in Iraq--and 2005--after Iraq. Moving between the two time periods tends to keep the reader a bit off balance, but it works, keeping the reader not quite sure of what is going to happen next, much like the feelings of the two soldiers.

I don't usually read war novels--the exception being Tim O'Brien's work. Kevin Powers's debut novel is as powerful as O'Brien's works, and I'm hoping to read more of Powers's work. ( )
  Cheryl.Russell | May 25, 2019 |
I picked up another copy & found it was very good. It is similar to O'Brien's book on Vietnam, but more prose. I really wondered whether the surviving soldier would ever be OK. ( )
  nancynova | Mar 7, 2019 |
If it weren't for how beautifully written and poetic this novel was, it would have been a really tough sell for me. However, the harshness and tragedy of war paired with the elegant prose that Kevin Powers utilizes make this novel something really special. ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
The Yellow Birds is a fictional account of two young soldiers, an 18-year-old, Murph, and a 21-year-old, Bartle, who are sent to serve in the war zone in Iraq. Bartle makes a promise to bring Murph back home safely. The two try to protect one another but the experiences of war erode realities into nightmares. Then the return home becomes the biggest nightmare of all.

The author is a veteran of the War in Iraq and thus the intensity of the war for the characters is certain to be very realistic. Also addressed are the issues of reentering the civilian world following deployment. Although the book addresses the many sides of war with an amazing insight, I found myself rereading many of the passages. Mr. Powers has an excellent talent for writing vibrant prose that could almost pass for poetry. I enjoy the challenge of a well written book but had some difficulty trying to digest the text to get to the plot. ( )
  Rdglady | Nov 20, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
A remarkable, beautifully understated, powerful, yet poised novel.
 
The novel moves, fitfully, through Virginia and Iraq and Germany and New Jersey and Kentucky, from 2003 to 2009. Recalling the war, Bartle says, is “like putting a puzzle together from behind: the shapes familiar, the picture quickly fading, the muted tan of the cardboard backing a tease at wholeness and completion.” This serves the story in two ways. First, it turns readers into active participants, enlisting them in a sense as co-authors who fit together the many memories and guess at what terrible secret lies in wait, the truth behind Murphy’s death. Because they lean forward instead of back, because they participate in piecing together the puzzle, they are made more culpable.

Then too, the fractured structure replicates the book’s themes. Like a chase scene made up of sentences that run on and on and ultimately leave readers breathless, or like a concert description that stops and starts, that swings and sways, that makes us stamp our feet and clap our hands — the nonlinear design of Powers’s novel is a beautifully brutal example of style matching content. War destroys. It doesn’t just rip through bone and muscle, stone and steel; it fragments the mind as a fist to a mirror might create thousands of bloodied, glittering shards.
 
...and while few will have expected the war in Iraq to bring forth a novel that can stand beside All Quiet on the Western Front or The Red Badge of Courage, The Yellow Birds does just that, for our time, as those books did for theirs.
added by Milesc | editThe Guardian, John Burnside (Aug 31, 2012)
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Powers, KevinAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abelsen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
A yellow bird   With a yellow bill   Was perched upon   My windowsill     I lured him in   With a piece of bread   And then I smashed   His fucking head.. ----- Traditional U.S. Army Marching Cadence ------
To be ignorant of evils to come, and forgetfull of evils past, is a mercifull provision in nature, whereby we digest the mixture of our few and eveil dayes, and our delivered senses not relapsing into cutting remembrances, our sorrows are not kept raw by the edge of repetitions.   ----- Sir Thomas Browne
Dedication
For my wife
Στη γυναίκα μου
First words
The war tried to kill us in the spring.
Quotations
If you get back to the States in your head before your ass is there too, then you are a fucking dead man.
It reminded me of talking, how what is said is never quite what was thought, and what is heard is never quite what was said, it wasn't much in the way of comfort, but everything has a little failure in it, and we still make do somehow.
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Book description
Bartle , 21 ans , est soldat en Irak à Al Tafar. Depuis l'entraînement , lui et Murph , 18 an sont inseparables . Bartle a fait la promesse de le ramener vivant au pays . Une promesse qu'il n'a pas pu tenir ... Murphy hante dès lors ses rêves de soldat et , plus tard de veteran.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316219363, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, Debut Spotlight, September 2012: With The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers introduces himself as a writer of prodigious talent and ambition. The novel opens in 2004, when two soldiers, 21-year-old Bartle and the teenaged Murphy, meet in boot camp on the eve of their deployment to Iraq. Bartle, bound by a promise to Murphy's mother to guide him home safely, takes the young private under his wing as they move through the bloody conflict that "rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground in prayer." Powers, an Iraq veteran, eyes the casual violence of war with a poet's precision but without romanticism, moving confidently between scenes of blunt atrocity and almost hallucinatory detachment with Hemingway-like economy and prose that shimmers like desert heat. Compact and emotionally intense, The Yellow Birds joins a maturing and impressive collection of Iraq War literature--both memoir and fiction--that includes Brian Castner's The Long Walk and Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. --Jon Foro

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:51 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In the midst of a bloody battle in the Iraq War, two soldiers, bound together since basic training, do everything to protect each other from both outside enemies and the internal struggles that come from constant danger.

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