Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Freebie: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Congratulations to Doni Molony, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye.

This week's book giveaway is The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers.  I'm especially pleased to offer this novel about the Iraq War to Quivering Pen readers.  As I mentioned earlier, I did a series of fist-pumps when I learned The Yellow Birds (along with Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain) had been named as a finalist in this year's National Book Awards.  I've been a champion of Powers' book ever since I finished reading an advance copy of it in August.  It's lyrical, it's profound, and it will break your fucking heart.  It belongs on the same shelf as Ernest Hemingway and Tim O'Brien and I completely agree with Ann Patchett who said the novel is "harrowing, inexplicably beautiful, and utterly, urgently necessary."  Here's the basic plot summary (which doesn't do full justice to the beauty of the book):
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.
As further proof of Powers' artistry, here are the opening paragraphs of The Yellow Birds:
      The war tried to kill us in the spring. As grass greened the plains of Nineveh and the weather warmed, we patrolled the low-slung hills beyond the cities and towns. We moved over them and through the tall grass on faith, kneading paths into the windswept growth like pioneers. While we slept, the war rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground in prayer. When we pressed onward through exhaustion, its eyes were white and open in the dark. While we ate, the war fasted, fed by its own deprivation. It made love and gave birth and spread through fire.
      Then, in summer, the war tried to kill us as the heat blanched all color from the plains. The sun pressed into our skin, and the war sent its citizens rustling into the shade of white buildings. It cast a white shade on everything, like a veil over our eyes. 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. It didn’t care about objectives, or boundaries, whether you were loved by many or not at all. While I slept that summer, the war came to me in my dreams and showed me its sole purpose: to go on, only to go on. And I knew the war would have its way.
If you'd like a chance at winning a copy of The Yellow Birds, all you have to do is email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Oct. 18at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on Oct. 19.  If you'd like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week Quivering Pen newsletter, simply add the words "Sign me up for the newsletter" in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you've done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying "I've shared" and I'll put your name in the hat twice.

1 comment:

  1. This novel is narrated by a 21-year-old soldier stationed in Al Tafar, Iraq recounting his struggle not only to survive, but to protect his 18-year-old buddy who becomes increasingly unstable. The writing is beautiful and poetic, while the story is disturbing and powerful. This is a unique and unsettling visit into the mind of a soldier.