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The Yellow Birds

The Yellow Birds - Kevin Powers Somewhere around 3 stars. Some beautifully written and resonant passages, and many that are overwritten (so many adverbs! Sometimes consecutively!). Powers served in Iraq in 2004, and The Yellow Birds seems to be his way of positing the questions he was left with. They remain unanswered; the novel is really one big, unhealed wound. Rather than creating a broad criticism – issues of politics, Iraqi civilians, and the military itself are not directly addressed – he simply relates his jumbled memories, his transformation, and his isolation and confusion upon returning home. War is the antagonist here, not its individual components. It’s tempting to describe parts as clichéd, and some are, but they’re also simply facts of war, and it’s worth being (literarily) reminded that whether it’s the siege of Troy, the Napoleonic invasion of Russia, or a massacre in Vietnam, the human cost never changes. Still, The Yellow Birds is a novel, not a memoir, so I think it’s fair to say that falls short of some of the superior novels it evokes; for me, the greater novels do ask some of those more accusatory questions, but that may be because I can’t help but ask them myself.