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!