The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers – Book Review

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Published by Little, Brown and Company, an imprint of Hachette

The war tried to kill us in the spring…. Then, in summer, the war tried to kill us as the heat blanched all the color from the plains…. It tried to kill us every day, but it had not succeeded. Not that our safety was preordained. We were not destined to survive. The fact is, we were not destined at all. The war would take what it could get. It was patient. -p. 3-4

Private John Bartle is physically back from Iraq, but his experiences there have left him missing something, a piece of his humanity. Private Bartle was stationed with his platoon in Ninevah province, an area where gains and losses seem almost cyclical, taking a step forward now only to take a step back in six months. While in Iraq, Bartle made it a mission to watch over a younger soldier, Private Daniel Murphy, a mission that will haunt him more than perhaps anything else he witnessed there.

I was not surprised by the cruelty of my ambivalence then. Nothing seemed more natural than someone getting killed…. We only pay attention to rare things, and death was not rare. -p. 11

The Yellow Birds is an incredibly affecting novel of the war in Iraq. Powers is himself an Iraqi war veteran, and the emotions he describes both of the time during the war and the time after coming home.

What would I say? “Hey, how are you?” they’d say. And I’d answer, “I feel like I’m being eaten from the inside out and I can’t tell anyone what’s going on because everyone is so grateful to me all the time and I’ll feel like I’m ungrateful or something. Or like I’ll give away that I don’t deserve anyone’s gratitude and really they should all hate me for what I’ve done but everyone loves me for it and it’s driving me crazy.” Right. -p. 144

Although it is a physically slight novel, The Yellow Birds is hugely powerful. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how war affects our soldiers and I would not be surprised to find it as required reading by the time my children are in high school, despite some strong language., perhaps even replacing All Quiet on the Western Front.

Very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Still Missing by Chevy Stevens – Book Review

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Annie O’Sullivan is a real estate agent who was just closing up at an open house when THE FREAK abducted her. He took her to a specially fortified cabin in the woods and proceeded to abuse her in a myriad of ways. Perhaps even scarier than the abduction and abuse, though, is how much he knew about her. This was clearly not a random abduction.

We know from the beginning of the book that Annie somehow escapes THE FREAK, because the entire story is basically the monologue of her recounting her ordeal to her therapist, beginning from the time she was abducted and moving more or less chronologically to what is happening in her life in the aftermath of her abduction.

I had a difficult time getting into the style of storytelling initially. For one thing, Annie’s voice bothered me a bit at the beginning of each chapter when she is directly addressing her therapist. I can’t put my finger on the exact problem, but something didn’t quite ring true for me. Then there was the fact that we clearly knew she was alive and had managed to walk away from her abduction. I was fairly certain that this setup was going to kill for me any suspense the book might have otherwise held, although I thought I would still like the book overall.

Boy was I wrong. About 50 pages into the book I decided to tell myself it was not a thriller, per se, and read it just as more general fiction. I still think that is a wise choice, but around page 100 “Still Missing” grabbed me and absolutely would not let me go. I thought I couldn’t become invested in Annie’s life as an abductee because I knew she would survive, no matter what horrendous things were done to her, but a situation arose during her captivity that left me breathless in fear and anticipation as I turned the pages, both wanting and not wanting to know what happened. Even once that situation was over, I was left incredibly invested in Annie, her ordeal, and her attempts to cope after the fact.

If you want a book that will suck you in despite a slightly slow beginning, “Still Missing” is a great choice. Recommended.

“Still Missing” is on sale in the US Tuesday, July 6th, 2010, but I have 3 copies to give away right now!

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

This review was done with a book received from Sarah at St. Martin’s Press.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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