Yellow Birds
by Powers, Kevin

Two friends, both U.S. soldiers in Iraq, cling to life and each other as a bloody fight to take control of the city of Al Tafar rages around them and they stave off fatigue, mental stress and insurgents. 100,000 first printing.

<div><b>Kevin Powers</b> is the author of <i>The Yellow Birds</i>, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Guardian First Book Award, and was a National Book Award Finalist, as well as <i>Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting</i>, a collection of poetry. He 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.</div>

Coming on the heels of two other Iraq War novels, the powerful Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and the blackly comic Fobbit (both 2012) is this first novel by a former soldier. It follows 21-year-old Private John Bartle and his friend Murph from basic training through their horrific experience in Iraq and Bartle's subsequent attempts, once he arrives back home, to reconcile himself to what he saw and did in the war. Flowing entirely from Bartle's perspective are long, languorous sentences that simultaneously describe the stark desert landscape of Iraq and the mutilated corpses that litter the battleground. Under intense pressure, Murph begins to dissociate from his surroundings, eventually leaving his unit's base camp, where he becomes the prey of insurgents. Powers' intense and insular prose effectively communicates the fear of young soldiers so inadequately prepared for the atrocities they will both witness and commit as well as the absurdity of continually capturing and losing the same city over the war's long course. Some readers, however, may find the novel to be somewhat static in its relentlessly artful depiction of the horrors of war. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

A novel about the poetry and the pity of war. The title comes from an Army marching chant that expresses a violence that is as surprising as it is casual. Pvt. John Bartle's life becomes linked to that of Pvt. Daniel Murphy when they're both assigned to Fort Dix before a deployment to Iraq. Murph has just turned 18, but at 21, Bartle is infinitely more aged. In a rash statement, one that foreshadows ominous things to come, Bartle promises Murph's mother that he'll look out for him and "bring him home to you." The irascible Sgt. Sterling overhears this promise and cautions Bartle he shouldn't have said anything so impulsive and ill-advised. In Iraq nine months later, the two friends go on missions that seem pointless in theory but that are dangerous in fact. They quickly develop an apparent indifference and callousness to the death and destruction around them, but this indifference exemplifies an emotional distance necessary for their psychological survival. As the war intensifies in Nineveh province, they witness and participate in the usual horrors that many soldiers in war are exposed to. As a result of his experiences, Murph starts to act strangely, becoming more isolated and withdrawn until he finally snaps. Eventually he, too, becomes a victim of the war, and Bartle goes home to face the consequences of a coverup in which he'd participated. Powers writes with a rawness that brings the sights and smells as well as the trauma and decay of war home to the reader. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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