Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

The Yellow Birds

by Kevin Powers, 320 pages, Fiction.

Powers' first novel is a moving account of two young soldiers in Iraq, flashing back to their meeting in basic training. Through most of the book they are impossibly young and naive, referred to as "the boys"--with their memories of school, of being hugged by and cried over by their mothers intruding into their rapid, chaotic, and deadly transition toward manhood. Sgt. Sterling is the only other constant in the book. He's the only other "real" character in what is described on the book jacket as an increasingly "hazy nightmare." Sterling sees it all too well and has illusions about none of it. His advice to the other two is harsh, cold, and (to his thinking) vital for their survival.
The Yellow Birds is a small book, and it goes by quickly. And even though I went back and read the end agai,n I am still a bit confused: what exactly happened there in the minaret and then at the river? Why did those actions seem so necessary to Bartle and to Sterling, and why is there so much guilt there? What was in the letter? And why is Bartle where he is at the end for so long? Forceful, sad, and a bit confusing. I'd love to have a book discussion about this one to find out what others think.

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