Tight and exceedingly well-planned and for all that lyrical, The Yellow Birds is akin to watching a car crash unfold before your eyes. Its effect is visceral in the absolute sense of the word: it, by turns, gives you goosebumps, makes you suck in your breath and leaves you sometimes terrified and sometimes weeping.
It’s the story of John who goes to war, having made a friend in Murph, a younger soldier, during training. In Iraq, they are inseparable.
Until they are separated.
From the title (explained at the novel’s start) – to the attractive cover image (pretty on first sight, shocking in contemplation), this first-time author does not skip a beat. Powers may have written this book as an exercise in catharsis (see the interview in the back), but not for one moment does he overlook his reader. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. – Karin Schimke
- This review first appeared in the Cape Times in November 2014.