At 17, Kevin Powers joined the army and found himself in Iraq serving as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar. On his return to America, he was constantly asked What was it like? Powers’ extraordinary debut novel, The Yellow Bird, is one man’s answer to what even he does not fully understand.
As Powers explains in the preface: “What I’ve written is not meant to report or document, nor is it meant to argue or advocate. Instead I’ve tried with what little skill I have to create the cartography of one man’s consciousness, to let it stand, however briefly, as my reminder.”
The Yellow Birds centres on the lives of three soldiers as their platoon prepares for an assault on a nearby Iraqi community.
There is Bartle who joined the army in his teens and at 21 is a combat veteran. He is torn between putting on the uniform of callous bravado just to survive and being mentally eaten away by the agonising awfulness of his existence.