The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
A Novel

81%

16 Critic Reviews

Powers writes gripping battle scenes, and his portrait of male friendship, while cheerless, is deeply felt.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

A novel written by a veteran of the war in Iraq, The Yellow Birds is the harrowing story of two young soldiers trying to stay alive.

"The war tried to kill us in the spring." So begins this powerful account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city. Bound together since basic training when Bartle makes a promise to bring Murphy safely home, the two have been dropped into a war neither is prepared for.

In the endless days that follow, the two young soldiers do everything to protect each other from the forces that press in on every side: the insurgents, physical fatigue, and the mental stress that comes from constant danger. As reality begins to blur into a hazy nightmare, Murphy becomes increasingly unmoored from the world around him and Bartle takes actions he could never have imagined.

With profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on mothers and families at home, The Yellow Birds is a groundbreaking novel that is destined to become a classic.
 

About Kevin Powers

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Kevin Powers was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, and holds an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a Michener Fellow in Poetry. He served in the US Army in 2004 and 2005 in Iraq, where he was deployed as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar. This is his first novel.
 
Published September 11, 2012 by Little, Brown and Company. 241 pages
Genres: War, Literature & Fiction, Children's Books. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Yellow Birds
All: 16 | Positive: 13 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Good
on Jul 15 2012

Powers writes with a rawness that brings the sights and smells as well as the trauma and decay of war home to the reader.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Benjamin Percy on Oct 04 2012

...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.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Sep 06 2012

“The Yellow Birds” is brilliantly observed and deeply affecting: at once a freshly imagined story about a soldier’s coming of age...and a philosophical parable about the loss of innocence and the uses of memory.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by John Burnside on Aug 31 2012

In the creation of his three principals...Powers has given us a highly sensitive and perceptive portrayal of men at war...

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jul 30 2012

Powers writes gripping battle scenes, and his portrait of male friendship, while cheerless, is deeply felt.

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NPR

Excellent
Reviewed by Alan Cheuse on Sep 04 2012

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. Tell it as a poem.

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Mark Athitakis on Sep 08 2012

"The Yellow Birds" has the outward simplicity of a fable, and it captures the collision of camaraderie and grotesque violence that's all but required in every war story.

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Toronto Star

Above average
Reviewed by John Freeman on Nov 09 2012

What remains is the need for testimony: a literary way to deliver the grand narrative of combat. This is precisely what Kevin Powers accomplishes in his poetic if uneven debut novel, The Yellow Birds.

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Toronto Star

Above average
Reviewed by John Freeman on Nov 09 2012

Occasionally he pushes too hard, though, and mimics the aphoristic sound of truth but not its substance.

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LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Hector Tobar on Nov 10 2012

..."The Yellow Birds" might just be the first American literary masterpiece produced by the Iraq war... a powerful and disturbing statement about the brutality of that conflict, and of the deep wounds inflicted on thousands of our citizen-soldiers.

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Keith Staskiewicz on Sep 11 2012

...Powers occasionally lapses into abstraction to fill the spaces in his relatively sparse plot...

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Washington Independent Review of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Steve Watkins on Jan 06 2013

The Yellow Birds, which should be better than it is, relies far too much on that lyricism and on metaphor for its resonance, and reads in many ways like a prose poem...What it’s missing, as a novel about war, is too much of everything else.

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The Seattle Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Valerie Ryan on Sep 09 2012

In quiet, beautiful prose, Powers has painted an unforgettable portrait of so much that is wrong about the conduct of war and peace for soldiers.

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The Daily Beast

Good
Reviewed by Doug Stanton on Sep 11 2012

What Powers achieves in his prose and storytelling is a sense of eternity haunting the margins of one’s own vision...

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The New Republic

Good
Reviewed by Elizabeth Samet on Sep 10 2012

Powers’s brutal lyricism feels fresh because it recalls a mode so decisively eclipsed by the high-octane hyperrealism of so much contemporary writing about war. It is this tenacious lyric voice that sets his novel...apart.

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The Rumpus

Good
Reviewed by Caleb Cage on Nov 29 2012

His story challenges the national understanding of the war, the people who fought and fight in it, and what it all might mean for our society as a whole.

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Reader Rating for The Yellow Birds
75%

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