"The war tried to kill us in the spring," begins this breathtaking 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. 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.
Bound together since basic training when their tough-as-nails Sergeant ordered Bartle to watch over Murphy, the two have been dropped into a war neither is prepared for. As reality begins to blur into a hazy nightmare, Murphy becomes increasingly unmoored from the world around him and Bartle takes impossible actions.
With profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on mothers and families at home, The Yellow Birds a groundbreaking novel about the costs of war that is destined to become a classic.
The war tried to kill us in the spring. As grass greened the plains of Nineveh and the weather warmed, we patrolled the low-slung hills beyond the cities and towns. We moved over them and through the tall grass on faith, kneading paths into the windswept growth like pioneers. While we slept, the war rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground in prayer. When we pressed onward through exhaustion, its eyes were white and open in the dark. While we ate, the war fasted, fed by its own deprivation. It made love and gave birth and spread through fire.
Then, in summer, the war tried to kill us as the heat blanched all color from the plains. The sun pressed into our skin, and the war sent its citizens rustling into the shade of white buildings. It cast a white shade on everything, like a veil over our eyes. It tried to kill us every day, but it had not succeeded. Not that our safety was preordained. We were not destined to survive. The fact is we were not destined at all. The ...
I can't think of a book in my experience that has elicited such an overwhelmingly visceral reaction, and certainly none that have had such an enormous impact on my view of the effects of war. It's one of those once-in-a-lifetime reading encounters that I am certain will remain a permanent part of my consciousness.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (1233 words).
Kevin Powers started writing poems and stories at about the age of 13. He began writing poetry about war a year or two after his discharge from the Army as a way to process his own experiences while in Iraq, and eventually decided to take classes to develop his talents. Powers graduated in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in English from Virginia Commonwealth University and received his M.F.A. in Poetry from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin in 2012. His poems have appeared in the New Orleans Review, Poetry, and The New York Quarterly.
Here is where appreciation starts: the Iraqi boy
in a dusty velour tracksuit almost getting shot.
When I say boy, I mean it. When I say almost
If you liked The Yellow Birds, try these:
Darkly humorous and based on the author's own experiences in Iraq, Fobbit is a fantastic debut that shows us a behind-the-scenes portrait of the real Iraq war.
Running the Rift follows Jean Patrick Nkuba, a gifted Rwandan boy, from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life, a ten-year span in which his country is undone by the Hutu-Tutsi tensions.
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