The Yellow Birds

Finalist, National Book Awards 2012 for Fiction

Fiction_Powers_The Yellow Birds

Little, Brown and Company
Powers, Kevin, photo credit Marjorie Cotera
Kevin Powers

Kevin Powers joined the army at the age of 17, later serving a year as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar, Iraq, in 2004 and 2005. After his honorable discharge he enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University, where he graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor's degree in English. More about this author >

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“The war tried to kill us in the spring.” So begins this powerful account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year-old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city. Bound together since basic training when Bartle makes a promise to bring Murphy safely home, the two have been dropped into a war neither is prepared for. 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. As reality begins to blur into a hazy nightmare, Murphy becomes increasingly unmoored from the world around him and Bartle takes actions he could never have imagined.

Judges Citation

Poetic, precise, and moving, The Yellow Birds is a work of fiercest principle, honoring loss while at the same time indicting the pieties of war. With acute emotional and psychological integrity, the novel tracks young soldier Bartle’s passage through the fields of memory and the nightmare landscape of the Iraq war, through days of waiting, through the sudden, fatal everyday, seeking no less than the remedy for mortal wounds, the mercies of remembrance amid the catastrophic ruin wrought by the hand of man. An urgent, vital, beautiful novel that reminds us through its scrupulous honesty how rarely its anguished truths are told.