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The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

The Yellow Birds is about a young veteran of the Iraq war. Everyone I knew who had read it was comparing it to Tim Obrien’s imperishable novel The Things They Carried.

I can safely say that I love them both. Things is a book I wouldn’t ever want to do without, but Kevin Powers is a writer with real gifts.

The story unfolds in fragments. What we know at the outset is that the young narrator survived the battle of Al Tafar, but something happened. An eighteen year old named Murph is dead. We don’t know how. I don’t want to say more than that; the method by which Powers lets the story unfold–with subtlety, something missing from far too many books about wars–is one of the novel’s greatest pleasures.

The Yellow Birds isn’t a lot of fun, but it’s a powerful story, and there are innumerable tragedies just like the one it describes. There are lines and pieces and scenes that I’ll remember for a long time.

Give it a try!

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  • Holly Williams May 22, 2014, 9:26 am

    I’ve not only read Yellow Birds (which was a finalist for the Maine Readers Choice Award last year) but made my library book group read it, and I still talk about it incessantly a year later. It’s difficult to read because of the subject matter but the language is so, so beautiful, isn’t it? Looking forward to reading Power’s new book of poetry.

    • Josh Hanagarne May 22, 2014, 10:38 am

      It really is. In some ways it reminded me of Winter’s Bone, in the way the language felt. Very spare but very evocative.

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