Kevin Powers' first novel, The Yellow Birds, is a coming-of-age drama set during the Iraq War. The first-person account is narrated by John Bartle, an army private stationed in Al Tafar, Iraq, at the height of hostilities in September 2004. In basic training the 21-year-old Bartle is assigned to look after Private Daniel Murphy, then 17, promising both his sergeant and Murphy's mother that he would bring the young man home safely. We learn very early on that Bartle has failed to accomplish this goal, and feels some responsibility - and perhaps culpability - for Murphy's death. The narrative alternates between events leading up to Murphy's demise and Bartle's attempt to come to terms with it and with his military experiences in general after he is discharged back to his home in Virginia.
The Yellow Birds isn't a feel-good read. The title comes from an army call-and-response marching ...
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