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The Yellow Birds: A Novel | [Kevin Powers]

The Yellow Birds: A Novel

"The war tried to kill us in the spring," begins this breathtaking account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, 21-year-old Private Bartle and 18-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.
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Publisher's Summary

"The war tried to kill us in the spring," begins this breathtaking account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, 21-year-old Private Bartle and 18-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 is a groundbreaking novel about the costs of war that is destined to become a classic.

©2012 Kevin Powers (P)2012 Hachette Audio

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  •  
    Buzz Scottsdale, AZ, United States 10-17-12
    Buzz Scottsdale, AZ, United States 10-17-12 Listener Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sad and Unforgettable"


    I accept that it is not possible to know what it is like to be in combat unless one has actually experienced it, but good literature is as close as one can get. The Yellow Birds, set in Iraq, tells the story of two young American soldiers from Virginia, their experiences and the aftermath. It is not a pretty picture. The genius of the book, a first work by Kevin Powers, is that it uses powerful and artful writing to not only tell a story, but to provide insight into the consciousness of other human beings who are caught in the madness of war and killing. This is not a story of hope or spiritual uplifting; rather, it is an exposition (not an explanation) of existence under this latest version of war. It is sad and unforgettable. Beautifully read.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melissa Phillips MEDINA, OH, US 10-08-12
    Melissa Phillips MEDINA, OH, US 10-08-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Brutal Honesty"
    Any additional comments?

    This was a heartwrenching story. Very real and eye opening to what deployment is really like and how combat changes lives. I thought I had an idea of combat, as a military wife, but this was enlightening, in a bittersweet way. I have a much greater understanding of the how and why of PTSD. I believe combat is one of those experiences you could never understand unless you have been there, but this is definitely the closest thing to it. An amazing story and I appreciate the author going to these places in his mind to help us see a glimpse of war.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather Phoenix, AZ, United States 12-03-12
    Heather Phoenix, AZ, United States 12-03-12 Member Since 2011

    Avid reader/listener of romance, action, thrillers, and spy novels.

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    "Stupid Yellow Birds"
    If you could sum up The Yellow Birds in three words, what would they be?

    Kleenex, Advil, and weeping


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Bartle. Poor kid never knew what was coming and couldn't even stop it if he had. Damn war, makes messes of all their lives.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    You know, I didn't have a favorite scene. It's damn hard to pick a favorite scene when the whole story is so sad and depressive. The fact that it's a completely honest look at what could happen to all our troops when they get home from the war makes it all the worse. Fiction or not, it's crippling.

    That being said, it really makes you think about how to treat our soldiers when they get home. Thank you all for your service. It's never enough, but I'll never stop saying it.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. There's only so much sadness I can handle in one sitting. It's a great story, but I wept through most of it so much that I gave myself many migranes. The saddest part is that the soldiers fighting can't take a break when the war gets too much for them to handle.


    Any additional comments?

    This one isn't for the weak of heart, but if you've got someone fighting, you need to hear this one. It may be too late for some who have been diagnosed with PTSD, which is what I think Bartle has, but being sensitive to it and helping when you can will help. This one will make you want to take breaks often, but keep coming back to it. It's got a good ending, even if it's heart breaking to get through.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 11-12-12
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 11-12-12 Member Since 2008
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    "An Outstanding Book: Thoughtful, Sad, Insightful"

    It is difficult to review this book without waxing so eloquent that potential readers/listeners won't become incredulous.

    Without question, this is one of the most thoughtful and well written stories I have read in ages. It follows the lives of two young soldiers, Bart and Murph, as they go through basic training and are deployed to Iraq. For the next several months we follow them as they descend into the hell of war. The war and its players are not romanticized. Instead, the terror of war comes to life and the reader/listener has a front row seat as Bart (short for Bartle) chronicles the impact of this terro on him and Murph (short for Murphy). Considering that Bart made a commitment to protect Murph, his distress is compounded as he watches Murph slip away from him.

    If you have ever wanted to understand war and its affect on warriors, this is the book for you. Be prepared for a strong emotional response, however. Not just because of the blood and guts (there is some of that) - but because of the the incredible psychological toll that war takes on everyone.

    Graham did an outstanding job of narrating this story. His voice lent an authenticity to the story. He did a good job with multiple voices. But he did best at reflecting Bart's struggle to be a good person, a good soldier, and a good comrade. In the end, he did an outstanding job of portraying Bart's effort to understand the war and how it changed everything he knew about himself and those around him.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda R. Brown 05-05-13 Member Since 2007
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    "how to develop post traumatic stress disorder"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Yellow Birds to be better than the print version?

    probably because I don't like to read anymore


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    the main character. he was the "I"


    What does Holter Graham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Great listen.


    If you could rename The Yellow Birds, what would you call it?

    how to develop post traumatic stress disorder


    Any additional comments?

    I work with veterans who won't or don't talk about their experiences. This story helped me understand some of what they might have experienced.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Bergh NH 02-13-13
    P. Bergh NH 02-13-13 Member Since 2004

    There's always time for reading

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    "WOW! Should be required high school reading!"

    While I don't read a lot of "war" books, I have to say that this book was one of the most compelling books I have read in a long time. It is grisly, lyrical, timely, ancient, and so moving. I practically read it in one sitting (it's not too long). It's also really well read--really almost "acted", so well read. But the writing is what counts: it is a stunning book. I will get a copy of the book out of the library, as there are parts of the book that I want to reread, just for the shear beauty of the words and wisdom of what they say. I've read many of the NYT 2012 top ten and in my opinion, this is by far the best so far.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keisha Los Angeles, CA, United States 01-17-13
    Keisha Los Angeles, CA, United States 01-17-13 Member Since 2008
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    "A Soldier Story"

    The narrator couldn't have been more perfect for this book. I loved chapter seven when his honest emotions came through in such a raw moment. I obviously do not have first hand knowledge of the going ons in war but I would have to believe that this couldn't be far from actual accounts. It reminded me in part of the Katherine Bigelow movie that won the Oscar year before last.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    josh dekalb, IL, United States 09-25-12
    josh dekalb, IL, United States 09-25-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Very atriculate and emotional novel of the Iraqwar"

    The Yellow Birds, while very emotional and well written has me wondering about the moral message related in this book. Yellow Birds does not, I believe, give you insight into the war or in the stateside portion of it anymore than the movie Apocalypse Now gives a view of Vietnam. While it is short i think it is still worth the credit. I believe the book The Good Soldiers was much better and it is an actual account of the Iraq war.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dundas Malibu, CA, United States 01-17-13
    Dundas Malibu, CA, United States 01-17-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Things to like, but …"

    I haven't finished this book yet, but with an hour to go, think I have a handle on it. The essential story is Bart's — what he did in the war in Iraq and what it did to him. There's lots of physical description, and some of it adds to the story, and some Hemingwayish affectations with concatenated conjunctions that don't. The characters are thin, especially Murph, the best friend fated for a bad end, Sterling the jaded non-com trying to keep his troops alive. The officers (FD: I was one) were truly cartoonish, as were the mothers.

    Seems to me that author Powers was trying to write a very interior novel. I don't know how well that works in a war story. It turns into a story of one man's angst set in a war/afterward. In war stories I find memorable, including Catch-22, Cacciato, and parts of Wind-up Bird Chronicle, the reader's able to live with the character, because they're more than a bundle of angst, they deal with other, more real characters in interesting, believable ways, and more happens.

    Powers has promise, and his work is moving/lyrical by bits and pieces. This seems like early work, and makes me hope for bigger+better later on.

    The reader is excellent.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 08-24-14
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 08-24-14 Member Since 2007

    Chet Yarbrough, an audio book addict, exercises two cocker spaniels twice a day with an Ipod in his pocket and earbuds in his ears. Hope these few reviews seduce the public into a similar obsession but walk safely and be aware of the unaware.

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    "YELLOW BIRDS"

    Kevin Powers is a thirty-something, first-book’ author that explains what it is like to be a soldier in combat. Powers recreates war experience in Iraq and shows how combat affects a soldier’s life. “The Yellow Birds”’title comes from a boot-camp’ marching song but is about more than a walking cadence mnemonic; i.e. yellow symbolizes cowardice—its symptoms of fear, self-loathing, and death. Powers’ book-title presages yellowness in his story of war.

    “The Yellow Birds” tells the story of how combat affects soldiers; i.e. it explains how heroes can become villains, how cowards can become heroes, and how every soldier is scarred by the experience of battle. War is a mess of contradictions that confuse the mind, torture the truth, and leave soldiers, parents, children, and friends alone, often broken-spirited, and sometimes broken-hearted.

    As Bertrand Russell said, “War does not determine who is right—only who is left.”

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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