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The Yellow Birds: A Novel Paperback – April 30, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"The All Quiet on the Western Front of America's Arab wars."―Tom Wolfe

"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."―Michiko Kakutani, 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

"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."―Chris Cleave

"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

"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

"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."―Robert Olen Butler

"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

"This moving debut from Powers (a former Army machine gunner) is a study of combat, guilt, and friendship forged under fire....Powers's style and story are haunting."―Publisher's Weekly, starred review

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (April 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316219347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316219341
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (827 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

305 of 330 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius TOP 100 REVIEWER on August 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a superb, moving and insightful book about war and its effects on the men and women who take part in it. The author, Kevin Powers, is a veteran of Iraq in 2004 where this book is set and is now a poet. This combination of first-hand experience and ability with language coupled with great insight and honesty creates something quite remarkable.

The book is narrated in the first person by private John Bartle on his first tour of duty in Iraq. The language is heightened throughout, often poetic and sometimes almost hallucinatory. The timescale moves between his time in Iraq, his pre-tour training and his homecoming and after. The story is really that of Bartle's psychological journey and is quite stunning in its evocation of the war itself and of the state of mind of the young man who went through it. It is deceptively quiet in tone with even the violent action (of which there is relatively little) described without hysteria, and this lends it a remarkable power to convey things like fear, exhaustion, the rush of excitement and the dreadful problems of reintegrating once home.

All this may sound forbidding, turgid or preachy but it isn't at all. This is an engrossing, readable book which is quite short but has immense impact and which will stay with me for a very long time. I think this genuinely belongs among great war books such as All Quiet On the Western Front and Dispatches. I could give a long list of examples of how thoughtful, insightful and honest it is, but I will just say that I recommend that you read it. It is truly exceptional and you will never forget it.
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240 of 259 people found the following review helpful By Lydia on September 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is not a pretty story. It's stark, harsh, filled with horror, and made me, honestly, want to yell and scream at someone - anyone. And the thing is, I think that's the emotions it was supposed to evoke in me.

In The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, in less than 250 pages, we're taken on a journey. A journey to war - in all it's brutal, killing glory. This is a story about two Privates - each with their own path in life and death, and the hell each will leave as their legacy.

I honestly don't know how to review this book. As far as a review goes, let me just say that this is a seriously depressing book. It's about war, and it does not paint a pretty picture. There's no soldier playing guitar for a bunch of little refugee kids here. There's no parties, no laughter, no fun and games behind the lines as everyone tries to ease up on the stress level. This is what happens when hope has been not just taken away, but stomped under the feet of a commanding officer and then forced into the rotting guts of a dead enemy. Get the picture? I hope so - because I kind of wish I'd had someone to pound that into me.

After reading The Yellow Birds I was in a stupor for the rest of the day... on into the next day. There was an analogy Kevin Powers talked about - how rushing into battle is like that moment before you collide with another car in an accident. There's that same feeling of helplessness - the knowing that you may very well die in a mere second. I had a horrific accident almost one year ago - a driver pulled out in front of me, running his stop sign, and I collided with him. I was going 52 mph. That moment before impact felt like years, and in those years I had a thousand (at least) thoughts run through my head. But first and foremost? I didn't want to die. I wasn't ready.
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396 of 440 people found the following review helpful By R. Mcbeth on October 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Operation Iraqi Freedom wasn't one war, it was three.

The first war was from the initial invasion until about 2005-2006. This was the time when we were still figuring out how this whole war thing was supposed to be fought. It was when we ran patrols in soft-skinned Hummers and ran over IEDs that killed entire crews. We didn't have the right equipment. We didn't know the right tactics. We did the wrong things. We abused prisoners. We made mistakes. We holed up in FOBs and went out to do... well, shows of force while the big heads in the Green Zone rewrote Iraqi traffic laws. This is the time span in which the book takes place.

The second war was the surge which lasted from 2006 until about 2009. This was when we poured money into the clear-hold-build strategy. This strategy started to work, especially when the Sons of Iraq were formed and we worked hand-in-hand with the Iraqis as they started to figure out that they had a stake in this after all. We fought smarter and had better equipment. This was when Iran started pumping EFPs into the bombmaker's arsenals, but it's also when we really pushed to counter the bombs and the bombmakers. This was the war of The Hurt Locker.

The third war was from 2009 until 2011 as we closed bases and started to pull out. This was the long kiss goodnight as we packed up and left and let the Iraqis do most of the fighting. This was the war of the Fobbits - the soldiers who never left the FOB and consumed ice cream, attended Salsa Night and toured Saddam's Palaces.

Everybody's experience is different. Mine was from 2008 - 2009 some of it as a Fobbit, and some of it running convoys.
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