An unforgettable depiction of the psychological impact of war by a young Iraq veteran and poet, The Yellow Birds is already being hailed as a modern classic.
Everywhere John looks, he sees Murph. He flinches when cars drive past. His fingers clasp around the rifle he hasn't held for months. Wide-eyed strangers praise him as a hero, but he can feel himself disappearing. Back home after a year in Iraq, memories swarm around him: bodies burning in the crisp morning air. Sunlight falling through branches; bullets kicking up dust; ripples on a pond wavering like plucked strings. The promise he made, to a young man's mother, that her son would be brought home safely....
©2012 Kevin Powers (P)2012 Hachette Audio
If you prefer your books action-driven, fast-paced, more linear, chronological, this is probably not for you, although the war action is there in all its devastating detail. The story alternates between events in Iraq in 2004-2005 and alienation and repercussions back home in the US afterwards. The narrator did a very good job of portraying the internal voice of the young soldier. The story, as it is pieced together, is heart-breaking. What takes this book way beyond the usual war novel is the exquisite writing. One of my favourite books this year.
Whilst the beginning was gripping, the story lost momentum a few chapters in, and the non-linear narrative was often very confusing; a chapter set in late 2005 would precede a chapter set in spring 2004 and so on. Perhaps that would have been easier to follow in print, but it was difficult to understand what was going on. Too much introspection and not enough action made for a slow "read" despite Holter Graham's best efforts to bring life to the story.
"should be compulsory listening for all politicians"
Cannot really use the word 'enjoyable for this' - too harrowing. ..but certainly gripping and thought provoking An unembroidered account of young men at war in a conflict they barely understand in a country which, as the saying goes, they probably couldn't find on a map
"Powerful and beautifully written"
I had no real idea what to expect from this book, so I was very pleased when, 5 minutes into it, I found myself gripped, both by the story and it's telling. Some of the descriptive passages are breath taking in their terrible beauty.
The protagonist tells his tale with such brutal honesty that you are forced to believe that every word of this story is the absolute truth, that it is more of a confession without the hope of redemption. This draws you into the story to such a degree that it is very difficult to leave the tale until it is over. I started listening to this story on a short drive in the car, returned home and sat listening until the end, spell bound.
This is not to say that this is an enjoyable story, it is a glimpse into the horror of war and it's terrible aftermath. In the preface to slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut recalls promising a friend's wife that his book would not glorify war. In his own way, Kevin Powers achieves the same. Highly recommended.
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