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.
focusing. The voices of the range cadre barked out through the mist like an unpracticed choir. I watched the rain fall onto the dead leaves, causing a kind of shimmer in the nearly naked branches. The sound of magazines being loaded by the range detail carried over the thin winter air from the dilapidated ammo shed. The white paint peeling off the sides reminded me of a country church I’d passed on my way to school as a boy. The noise emanating from the shed was strange and mechanical and droned
he thought the noose was better suited to his neck. And then we celebrated. There were banners and folding tables in the base gymnasium. Our families watched as we stood in formation while the battalion commander gave a rousing, earnest speech about duty, and the chaplain injected humor into somber tales of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And there were hamburgers and French fries and we were glad. I brought a plate to my mother and sat across from her, a small distance away from the throngs
between what was remembered, what was told, and what was true. And I didn’t think I’d ever figure out which was which. “No, sir. That’s all right.” I appreciated the gesture, but it seemed obligatory and somehow therefore meaningless, as all gestures come to seem. “A friend, perhaps?” “I had a friend. I have a friend you can pray for.” “Who is he?” the priest requested. “Daniel Murphy. My battle. He got killed in Al Tafar. He died like…” I looked to the wall where the paintings of the saints
room off the kitchen in my single bed wishing that I hadn’t. It wasn’t the first time. I was tired of my mind running all night through the things I remembered, then through things I did not remember but for which I blamed myself on account of the sheer vividness of scenes that looped on the red-green linings of my closed eyelids. I could not tell what was true and what I had invented but I wanted it to stop, to leave it and have my perception drift away like a burned-up fog. I wanted to go to
where compassion still happened, but that wasn’t really it. He wanted to choose. He wanted to want. He wanted to replace the dullness growing inside him with anything else. He wanted to decide what he would gather around his body, to refuse that which fell toward him by accident or chance and stayed in orbit like an accretion disk. He wanted to have one memory he’d made of his own volition to balance out the shattered remnants of everything he hadn’t asked for. The girl rose and tossed her