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.
Sterling feigned frustration, but I could tell our solid performance on the range had given us some latitude. “Don’t worry. I’ll help.” He seemed to catch something spilling out of himself and corrected his bearing. My Kevlar was full of rocks. “Shit,” said Murph. “We just gotta train it up. Practice, practice, practice,” Sterling said. He laid his head down on the ground and put his feet on my upturned helmet. Murph started to say something, but I put my hand on his shoulder. “Yeah, we get
purpose, which was as vague and foreign as the indistinguishable dawns and dusks with which it came. “On your toes, guys!” the LT called in a forceful whisper. Murph sat up and calmly worked a small dot of lubricant into the action of his rifle. He chambered a round and rested the barrel against the low wall. He stared off into the gray angles where the streets and alleys opened onto the field to our front. I could see into his blue eyes, the whites spiderwebbed with red. They had fallen
remembered a cav scout in Al Tafar writing down the address for me on the torn top of a cigarette pack. “Best fucking place in history to get your dick wet. Fucking crucial,” he’d said. Maybe I had intended to come here. I wanted something, something different, but I couldn’t imagine that it would be getting my fucking dick wet. I lit a cigarette and stood in front of the building for several minutes. The rain continued to fall very gently over the city, and I was by this point nearly soaked
day. He wasn’t talking very much at all then, so I listened carefully when he did. I often thought about what he’d meant from that day on and it wasn’t until I stood in front of the house with the light coming through the curtains that I understood. People have always done this, I thought. They looked for a curved road around the plain truth of it: an undetermined future, no destiny, no veined hand reaching into our lives, just what happened and our watching it. Knowing this was not enough, and I
then we died. But let that number be someone else’s milestone. We hardly noticed a change when September came. But I know now that everything that will ever matter in my life began then. Perhaps light came a little more slowly to the city of Al Tafar, falling the way it did beyond thin shapes of rooflines and angled promenades in the dark. It fell over buildings in the city, white and tan, made of clay bricks roofed with corrugated metal or concrete. The sky was vast and catacombed with clouds.