Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Yellow Birds: A Novel Hardcover – September 11, 2012
|New from||Used from|
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
"The Yellow Birds might just be the first American literary masterpiece produced by the Iraq war."―Los Angeles Times
"An elegiac, sober, and haunting coming-of-age war story."―TIME
"The first great Iraq War novel."―Darren Reidy, Rolling Stone
"A first novel as compact and powerful as a footlocker full of ammo....Kevin Powers has something to say, something deeply moving about the frailty of man and the brutality of war, and we should all lean closer and listen."―Benjamin Percy, New York Times Book Review
"An exquisite excavation of the war's moral and psychological wreckage. Powers evokes the peculiar smell and feel of the war better than any journalist."―The New Yorker
"Darkly beautiful....How to tell a true war story if you're more a poet than a novelist? Tell it as a poet would. Tell it as Kevin Powers does."―Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered
"A novel of grit, grace, and blood by an Iraq war veteran....Kevin Powers moves gracefully between spare, factual description of the soldiers' work to simple, hard-won reflections on the meaning of war."―Ron Charles, Washington Post
"An unusually spare and lyrical war story....The characters are sketched with as much heart as economy...Like the Iraq heat, which 'had the surprising effect of reducing one to tears in an instant,' The Yellow Birds skulks along, detached and undemanding, until all of a sudden you turn a page and find yourself weeping."―GQ
"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
"Veteran Kevin Powers's searing debut novel brings the Iraq War home in compelling detail....The Yellow Birds is luminous...an indispensable portrait of the Iraq War and its impact of those who fought it."―Men's Journal
"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
"This is a novel I've been waiting for. The Yellow Birds is born from experience and rendered with compassion and intelligence."―Alice Sebold
"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
"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
"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
"A classic....Powers's first novel is full of boys, bile, bark, bodies and bewilderment....shows Powers's power to build suspense with substance and sensitivity."--Military Times
"Every sentence of The Yellow Birds is something to marvel over, the words flashing and chiming like spent brass casings. Kevin Powers, who served as an Army machine gunner, has written one of the best books of the year, what could become the definitive novel about Iraq."--Benjamin Percy, Esquire
"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."―Edna O'Brien
"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."―Hilary Mantel
Amazon's editors selected this title as one of our Best Books of the Month. See our current Editors' Picks.
Top Customer Reviews
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. And yet I think so very little about the soldiers we have out there living that moment every single day of their lives - both active duty and inactive.
I don't want to get political in this review, I just want to say that it drove its point home to me. I don't know what it's like to be a soldier in war - and frankly I know that I wouldn't have the guts to do it. But I can educate myself about it, and that's what this story has done for me.
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.
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.
Edit, after a few years, I actually did write a novella: "Debriding Iraq" which you can find at [...] . I am still seeking an agent for a larger project.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not for the faint hearted.