Customer Review

382 of 424 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A book about war, but not my war, October 16, 2012
This review is from: The Yellow Birds: A Novel (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. To me, Iraq will always look like miles and miles of concrete T-walls with the sound of a generator running in the background, or the view outside an armored M1115 window as we pulled onto Route Irish.

I had high hopes for the book. I wanted it to reflect the feeling in my stomach as we pulled onto Route Michigan and I got that sinking feeling that I was going to get hit that day. I wanted it to explain what it felt like to have a tourniquet velcroed to my arm and leg on the door side of the vehicle, just in case I got blasted. I wanted it to reflect how I felt when I was turned away at the chow hall because I had just come off of mission and my uniform was too messy to eat inside.

But it didn't reflect any of that because I served in the second war and the author served in the first.

For me, Iraq was kind of akin to a daily commute where you never knew if the curb in front of you was going to explode, peppered with the stupidity of your boss yelling at you because you didn't wear the right shirt to work that day.

Maybe somebody will write a book like that one day. Heck, maybe I will. But I can't call "The Yellow Birds" a definitive book about Iraq. I can't even call it a definitive book about war in general.

It is probably a good account of men going numb. But there is no joy in the novel. There is no highlights on the funny, stupid, games that privates play when the boredom sets in.

The book displayed moments of brilliance, namely when it explained combat as that dump of adrenaline in an auto accident. That was spot-on. It knocked my socks off when it showed how angry the main character was when everybody called him a hero, and he wanted to break their noses for it.

That made me want to give the book five stars.

But parts of the book just didn't ring true to me. There was no humor. You never felt the fear or fatigue of the soldier. Maybe the soldiers in the first war just felt hollow all of the time and I just have no capability of understanding it? But that part of the book made we want to give it one star.

So as a compromise , I settle on three. The book is worth buying just for those two moments of brilliance that I explained two paragraphs above, but it will never be my war so my review may be biased in favor of what I expected.
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Tracked by 8 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 31 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 19, 2012 1:07:53 PM PDT
porkchop says:
This is some insanely good writing. Also, I'm calling you out: you already wrote a book about the war. Am I right? Maybe it's not FINISHED, but...come on...yes? Yes.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2012 8:56:45 PM PDT
Book Lover says:
Might as well write it. It is already in his head. Maybe it will help.

Posted on Nov 4, 2012 1:13:50 PM PST
L. Woodard says:
I agree. Write the book. Tell us more of what you said in your review.

Posted on Nov 13, 2012 2:29:55 PM PST
Donald Drew says:
Please, please write your book, your story, your war. Based on your review alone, THAT is the book I want to read! You write it, I'll buy it, and so will millions! And of course, thank you for your service!

Posted on Nov 13, 2012 5:29:27 PM PST
Seeker says:
Dear R. McBeth, You really need to write your story. You have the experience, the keen insight the writing ability, and an audience. So get going and put it in writing!

Posted on Nov 15, 2012 3:01:33 AM PST
Katherine says:
Your review alone has displayed moments of brilliance. I'll read your story any day.

Posted on Nov 15, 2012 10:02:45 AM PST
Dear R. McBeth:
Yes, write your own book; it will surely be new and different from the books that have already been published on the Iraq war. Showing the contrast between the 3 separate wars would make for an invaluable "take" on what it was like, and I can see by your own reader review that you have writing skill and style. And I say that having been a literary editor for 25 years.

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 1:38:18 PM PST
S. Puffer says:
Your comments sound like an incredible opening to a book I would like to read. Let me rephrase that. Once I started reading your comment, I wanted to know the writer, the story, the truth. Please, if you feel that it is the right time for you to share what you experienced, write it down. You have a gift. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of it.

Posted on Nov 27, 2012 7:19:48 AM PST
MrGrumpie says:
Fantastic review and just to echo what others have said....go write that book.

Posted on Nov 30, 2012 12:52:22 AM PST
Donna says:
I agree with most of the comments here, that you should write your own book and story. This is just a teaser and we are dying to read more of your account with all the humour that goes with it.
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R. Mcbeth

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