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The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
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“The world makes liars of us all.”
“The Yellow Birds” is a novel I will have to think about some more, and possibly read again before I feel I have a fully formed view of it. This is a text that I think is ridiculously overpraised and it is overwritten, and yet it is a good book, and at times it is beautifully written and realized.
The text shifts between the present (mainly 2005, after the narrator’s tour of duty) and his time in country in Iraq (fall of 2004). This is an effective narrative choice as it gives the protagonist perspective and the space of time to analyze his war experiences. The story focuses mainly on the narrator and his buddy and how the war shapes their relationship and effects them as individuals. It is a story that is told on the surface level only, but the strength of Kevin Powers’ writing is that he conveys much more depth and meaning than just what the words say. This allows the novel to clock in at a quick 226 pages, and still be a fully realized story.
Another strength of the text is the use of gaps in information. Pieces of the whole story are slowly revealed to the reader, and each little piece is revealed with no fanfare. It just appears nonchalantly at the appropriate time in the narrative. It is well done. There is also an interior monologue in chapter seven that the narrator delivers (pages 144-146 in the hardcover) that is breathtaking. The prose in “The Yellow Birds” is lyrical and at times, it is the novel’s greatest asset. At other times it is its own worst enemy.
The ending of the novel seems to just peter out and it detracts from what otherwise is a solid text.
This is the second or third novel I have read that deals with America’s Arab wars and none of them has really satisfied me. Maybe I am too close to the experience. Maybe we need a gap of time. I am not sure. Regardless, I am glad that I read “The Yellow Birds”. I cannot say that about the other novels I have read about the Iraq War. This book will be worth revisiting.
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Reading Progress

October 18, 2017 – Started Reading
October 18, 2017 – Shelved
October 24, 2017 – Finished Reading

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