- 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 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 881 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Yellow Birds: A Novel Paperback – April 30, 2013
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"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
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Some might compare it to other war-themed books: The Naked and the Dead, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Things They Carried, or even A Separate Peace. They would, in my opinion, be misguided.
This is not the quintessential book about the Iraqi War, even though the settings are mainly the battlefield of Iraq and "home", in this case, Richmond, Virginia. Rather, it is a book about all wars and all situations that force us to live with becoming less than human.
What happens, Kevin Powers postulates, when youngsters - barely out of their teens - must go against everything they've been taught as moral? Is there "any making up for killing women or even watching women get killed, or for that matter killing men and shooting them in the back and shooting them more times than necessary to kill everything you saw sometimes because it felt like there was acid seeping down into your soul and then your soul is gone..."
This is a book about those who became unaware "of even our own savagery now: the beatings and the kicked dogs, the searches and the sheer brutality of our presence." It is about the promise that one boy - John Bartle -- makes to another boy's mother that he cannot possibly keep. It is about someone who cannot return to the ordinary despite his most fervent wishes: "If I could not forget, then I'd hope to be forgotten."
And most of all, it's about young men who should be in the height of life who are forced to be on intimate knowledge with death: "It seems absurd now that we saw each death as an affirmation of our lives. That each one of those deaths belonged to a time and that therefore that time was not ours. We didn't know the list was limitless."
None of the quotes I used reflect the pure elegiac beauty of the prose, beginning with the first line: `The war tried to kill us in the spring." The war could be any war or anything that creates detachment and devalues human life. "The world makes liars of us all," Kevin Powers writes at one point. Yet in this magnificent prose, the truth shines through.
When the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts started our space program they wished that a poet could take his/her place aboard these space vessels as ordinary words such as "awesome" or "stupendous" just never described such "out of this world" experiences.
We have our poet in Kevin Powers. Powers who after serving two tours in the US Army as a grunt came home and got his Master's Degree in Poetry at Virginia. Here his description of the war in Iraq is exquisite, yet horrifically painful. Lying prone on a white-hot bombed out building in Iraq sliding through spent brass .223 shells, watching through night vision scopes for any movement...staying awake by rubbing Tabasco sauce in one's eyes. (Every MRE-Meals Ready to Eat-contains a little bottle of Tabasco sauce--I know I've eaten enough MREs...but the sauce was intended to mask the taste of a meal you've eaten 1,000 times..not stinging your eyes and senses to keep you alert).
It is a novel of two young privates just trying to stay alive in war-torn Iraq. Where you have to objectify the enemy as unreal, evil..how else can you kill another human being? The opening line "The war tried to kill us in the spring." should become as well known and significant as "Call me Ishmael."
This is a book for every American who has NEVER stepped over the line to defend our country by joining military service. Only 1% of us ever do. I did. My late spouse did. But those of us who serve don't talk about the horror...and "Thank you for your service" is almost amusing when uttered by civilians in airports or at football games. Right! How about a job? benefits? my mind or body back?
And this is a book for those of us who did serve or are serving. "Yeah! He gets it!! He knows! He understands!"
Mandatory reading for every American...for every "chicken hawk neo-con politician who shrieks war at every turn....May we finally start using our brains and our state department to quell hostilities. Let's NEVER have another pre-emptive strike against another country..ever. No more Private Bartles whose lives are over at age 21...alive but dead inside.
Please read it!