Just a quick post today with no spoilers.
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers is a slim novel about the war in Iraq. Two young men meet during basic training and become quick friends. They watch each others backs and the main character Private Bartle makes a promise to the mother of his friend Private Murphy to bring him home safely.
Personally, I found this book slow and heavy. It’s certainly a close look at the effect of war on today’s soldiers and their families, however, I found there was a certain amount of disconnect. I felt sorry for the characters and the heaviness of the topic stayed with me for a few days after I finished, but I didn’t feel an emotional connection to anyone in the story. I felt there was very little emotion in the book.
This could be one of two things. There’s always the chance the author Kevin Powers, meant for there to be a disconnect, especially in the parts where Bartle is back home and trying to reconcile the things he’s seen with his old life. I believe that disconnect really fit in with the obvious PTSD and problems Bartle was having. However, I felt that same disconnect in the parts where he was in basic training and didn’t know what was coming.
I would have liked more insight into Murphy’s breakdown, but the narrative was about Bartle and from his point of view.
In summation, I think The Yellow Birds will be an important book, but I didn’t care for it. I don’t think it fully explored the characters or the situation. Will this be something we study to learn about the Iraqi war from an artist’s perspective? I think only time will tell. It has already won several awards throughout 2012 and 2013. It’s one of the first fiction narratives to come out of the Iraqi war to gain such critical accolades, so I feel like we’ll see more narratives detailing this war in the near future.