The Yellow Birds, by first time author Kevin Powers, is both beautifully written and terrifying at the same time. Powers is an Army veteran of the Iraq war and knows whereof he speaks. The title of the book comes from an Army marching cadence. It eerily fits the theme of the book.
It is the story of 2 Army privates from small towns who meet just as they are about to deploy to Iraq in 2004. Daniel Murphy has just turned 18 - he is both excited and scared and he latches onto John Bartle who is several years older. Bartle feels he is resonsible for Murph and actually tells Murphy's mother he will make sure Murph "gets back." This promise clouds his actions later on in the deployment.
The longer they are in Iraq the more precarious Murph's mental state becomes, until the awful, horrifying end. Bartle is left to deal with Murph's actions in his own misguided way.
This book is not for the faint of heart. Beautiful, almost lyrical prose is beside graphic descriptions of death and dying. I normally don't read books about the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. This book was an exception. I recommend it, but be careful, while it is a buddy war story they do not always end pleasantly.
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