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"All pain is the same. Only the details are different."

  • Nov 30, 2012
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A good friend pointed me towards The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers.  Set between 2003 and 2009 during the Iraq war, the novel tells the story of a soldier's mental and emotional descent into hell, both during the war and in his post-war existence.  It's a brutal look at one's loss of humanity and stability, and how the unthinkable becomes normal when faced with atrocities on a daily basis. 

Powers does a good job, especially given that this is his first novel.  His primary writing style is poetry, and that shows through in this effort.  Instead of an action-driven account of war, he delves more into the psyche of the main character and his friend from basic training.  The chapters jump between different time periods of the six year span of the story, going from engagements in Iraq to basic training at Fort Dix to his post-war civilian life back in Richmond Virginia.  The initial feeling (in my case) was a sense of randomness, as the pivotal event that explains everything isn't revealed up front.  But as things progress, the pre-, mid-, and post-war jumps start to gel into a complete picture, but not one that leaves the reader with any sense of fair play or justice.  War is hell, reality can be hell, and sometimes that's all there is... actions make sense at the time, but they'll never be judged in that context. 

The Yellow Birds wouldn't normally be "recreational reading" material for me, as I don't usually gravitate towards novels that are more emotional than physical.  However, reading this was like having someone bludgeon me with an emotional 2 x 4.  This book left some impressions inside me that will take some time to smooth out. 

Obtained From: Library 
Payment: Free

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About the reviewer
Thomas Duff ()
Ranked #43
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
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