The Yellow Birds: A Novel
The Yellow Birds: A Novel
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A novel written by a veteran of the war in Iraq, The Yellow Birds is the harrowing story of two young soldiers trying to stay alive.
"The war tried to kill us in the spring." So begins this powerful account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city. Bound together since basic training when Bartle makes a promise to bring Murphy safely home, the two have been dropped into a war neither is prepared for.
In the endless days that follow, the two young soldiers do everything to protect each other from the forces that press in on every side: the insurgents, physical fatigue, and the mental stress that comes from constant danger. As reality begins to blur into a hazy nightmare, Murphy becomes increasingly unmoored from the world around him and Bartle takes actions he could never have imagined.
With profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on mothers and families at home, The Yellow Birds is a groundbreaking novel that is destined to become a classic.
son. Don’t worry about it.” He reached out to pat my shoulder, but I turned back to the bar and grabbed my beer and finished it. I pointed to the bar and put more dollars on top of the ones the barman had not yet collected. “I’m sorry. I just thought…,” and I must have drifted off because I did not see him move. I saw instead the mop head swaying across the floor in narrow arcs where I’d been pointing. He walked off dragging the dirt gray of the mop’s fringes down the concourse behind him. The
Still in bed. “Tell him I’ll call him back.” She walked into my room and put the mouthpiece to her chest. “You’ve got to talk to people, John. It’s not good to be by yourself so much.” I’d known Luke since middle school. He was my best friend, though even now, those words don’t seem to mean anything. My fault, not his. His name reminded me of that discovery you make as a kid, that if you say a word over and over it will start to sound like gibberish, like white noise. “Take a message,” I said.
or the time he saw but could not explain his awe when his father brought a dozen caged canaries home from the mine and let them loose in the hollow where they lived, how the canaries only flitted and sang awhile before perching back atop their cages, which had been arranged in rows, his father likely thinking that the birds would not return by choice to their captivity, and that the cages should be used for something else: a pretty bed for vegetables, perhaps a place to string up candles between
reclined in the shade of its overhanging branches. I looked at Sterling and shrugged. He shrugged back and called to the hermit from the side of the road, his voice echoing heavily over the short distance in the heat of late morning. Our shoulders hung limp against our sides. The hermit called back, and as he did, the interpreter related what he said with a precise delay, which added to the confusion, their voices echoing in a way that gave me momentary déjà vu. “He says that he has come
the patch of vegetation that was his journey’s end, his body was twisted at absurd angles beneath the pink and shimmering tower. We moved the brush that either wind or passersby had scattered over him. We uncovered his feet first. They were small and bloody. A supply sergeant could have looked at them and said size seven, but he would not need boots now. Looking to the top of the tower, it was clear that he fell from a window where two speakers had been set up to amplify the muezzin’s call.