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Fives and Twenty-Fives Hardcover – August 26, 2014

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Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014: Normally, working a road crew would be the ultimate mundane job. But in Iraq, where every pothole carries the threat of a deadly booby trap, the duties of a road repair platoon are as fraught as a firefight. The title of this unflinching and important debut—written by an ex-Marine who served two tours in Iraq—refers to the platoon’s ground rules on bomb searching. When they stop to repair a pothole, they first scan the immediate five meters; a bomb detonated in that circle would obliterate them all. Next they sweep the twenty-five meters in every direction. In putting us right in the heat and the dust, inside the helmets and Kevlar vests that chafe the skin, Michael Pitre shows us that the battlefields of modern warfare are far more complex and bizarre than the American public might imagine. The story is told from three perspectives: the platoon leader, his medic, and their Iraqi translator, a fan of hip-hop and Huck Finn, all of them looking back on the catastrophe that shattered their world. Pitre is a nervy, funny writer, with an ear for dialogue and banter. And he’s not shy about commenting on America’s role in the world, and on the haunted postwar lives of its soldiers. In this bold novel, he’s added his voice to the collection of vital works by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. —Neal Thompson


Pitre’s suspenseful debut, influenced by his combat experience in the Iraq War, follows a Marine Corps road crew searching for hidden bombs on the treacherous highways encircling Baghdad. Three men, now home after a catastrophic incident, relate their memories of the sweltering days that brought them together and tore them apart. Two Americans, a lieutenant awarded the Bronze Star and a medic discharged other than honorably, struggle to start new lives in Louisiana while coping with feelings of intense shame. And a young, wisecracking Iraqi interpreter, obsessed with American pop culture, seeks asylum in the U.S. as the Arab Spring erupts around him. In Iraq, where every pothole contains an explosive device, tension builds toward a life-changing episode. The heart and soul of the book is the young Iraqi, composing his university thesis on Huckleberry Finn for a professor killed by insurgents and dancing like Mick Jagger to entertain Iraqi motorists who could be friend, foe, or, in his case, . . . family. A thrilling, defining novel of the Iraq War. --Adam Morgan, Booklist

"An unblinking, razor-edged portrait of the war . . . [A] deeply moving book." – Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Gripping and penetrating." – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Compelling." - Washington Post

"A page turner that gives a ground view of the war in Iraq, chronicles the difficulties of veterans' re-entry into civilian society and explores the ingredients -- good and bad -- of leadership." - Seattle Times"A thrilling, defining novel of the Iraq War." - Booklist

"A heart-stopping debut novel about war and its aftermath by an Iraq War veteran—and an essential examination of the United States’ role in the world." - Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[A] powerfully understated debut . . . in which everything rings so unshakably true. A war novel with a voice all its own, this will stand as one of the definitive renderings of the Iraq experience." - Kirkus, starred review

"The quiet pathos of war, its aftermath and the individuals affected by it, and the inability of a tone-deaf society to relate to them, is rendered with poignancy and stark honesty in Fives and Twenty-Fives. Readers will be floored by Pitre's spare literary style, the authenticity of each of his characters' three different voices, and those mesmerizing characters themselves, who are not perfect but demand our compassion for their very reality. The story of Fives and Twenty-Fives is sometimes difficult to abide, but is also necessary; we are lucky to have such a fine voice as Pitre's to tell it." -Shelf Awareness

"A gripping, assured novel, conveying a vivid impression of the Marines' camaraderie as well as a sense of foreboding whenever they leave their base, never knowing when they will encounter enemy fire or roadside bombs. Or both." - Scotland Herald

"With good fortune, this distinguished first novel may presage a long literary career... This is one of the finest war novels of recent years." - The Australian

"More than any other novel about our recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Fives and Twenty-Fives demonstrates how hard it is for troops to leave war behind them in a foreign country. The veterans of Michael Pitre's outstanding book are haunted by memory, riddled with guilt, and soaked in anesthetic liquor as they try to come back to themselves after a year spent repairing bomb-shattered roads in Iraq. It's not an easy trip for any of them, and Pitre puts us in his characters' boots every step of the way as he tells their interwoven stories with compassion, intelligence and grace. Just as these men and women can't shake the war from their souls, readers won't easily forget the Marines of Engineer Support Company." —David Abrams, author of Fobbit  

"Fives and Twenty-Fives is one of the great novels of war, the kind of book that comes along only once or twice each generation. It pulls off that rare literary feat of being at once expansive and personal. This novel is real and brutal and funny and wise. And most importantly, it made me finally begin to understand the toll exacted upon our male and female soldiers returning home to a country so tin-eared to the repercussions of what we exact upon our own and on others. Michael Pitre, a two-tour Marine veteran of the Iraq conflict, is not just the real deal, he's a literary force in the making." —Joseph Boyden, author of Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce

"An authentic and evocative novel about the many battlefields that soldiers face, Fives and Twenty-Fives represents an important new voice in the literature on war." —Dominic Tierney, author of How We Fight: Crusades, Quagmires and the American Way of War 

"Talk about 'boots on the ground.' This debut novel is powerful, and gives us characters (and numbers) no reader will soon forget. Among the best novels to ever come out of the Iraq war, it gives a visceral and moving account of war and its aftermath." —Robert Bausch, author of On the Way Home

"Michael Pitre’s Fives and Twenty-Fives is a remarkable literary debut, a hauntingly spare, tender, and unflinching account of those who go to war in our own time. While it is, on one level, a story that has come out of the conflict in Iraq—a land and landscape Americans know so much and so little about—at its core the novel raises the notion of struggle to that place where characters discover, in fascinating concentric circles of awareness (the very thing for which they are trained on the battlefield), that this struggle is the task to which they remain inextricably bound. This novel will be one of the cornerstones of the literature on war in the twenty-first century." —Andrew Krivak, author of The Sojourn


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (August 26, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 162040754X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620407547
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Ryan J. Dejonghe TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This book nails it: both the feeling of conflict and the conclusion of duty back home. I'm impressed at the realistic inclusion of both officer and enlisted, especially both sexes, male and female. The repeated exposure to war, though not completely understandable or always justified, has both physical and psychological consequences to everyone involved. Though each service member has bonding similarities, everyone is affected uniquely. Author Michael Pitre expresses this perfectly. For that, I want to thank my military brother.

I am a former Marine and currently work helping my fellow Veterans. FIVES AND TWENTY-FIVES captures what many civilians want to know, but so few returning military members wish to express. Thankfully Pitre was trained in writing before he signed up for training in combat. He took that writing expertise to war--twice--returning with the capturing of unequivocal knowledge. As a writer and a Marine, Pitre relays experiences unparalleled to many of this written genre.

In particular, this book focuses on several different people involved in the conflict of Iraq: officer, enlisted, Navy Corpsman, and Iraqi interpreter. Initially, it felt like separate stories, which I would have appreciated as well, but then the stories began weaving more and more together. Pitre's method brought about the intricate relationship every member has with one another, whether in peace-time uniform, in shoulder-to-shoulder combat, or discharged back home.

If you were never in the military and want to know more about our men and women coming home and still serving overseas, this is the book to read. If you were in the military and want to understand more about modern-day effects of multiple combat tours: read this book.

I want to thank Bloomsbury for providing this book electronically for me to review. And for the author, Semper Fi, brother.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Coco on August 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Given To Me For An Honest Review

This book is about the Iraq war. It gives a voice of the Iraqi women. The author is a veteran of the Marine Corps. He uses his experience from what he saw and what happened while in Iraq to write this story. This gives you, the reader, a sense of realism and a bit of humor from a soldier's point of view. This book is a page turner. Once I began I could not put it down. I highly recommend it for all. Michael Pitre did a fantastic job in writing this story. I only wish I could give more than 5 stars.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Viviane Crystal VINE VOICE on August 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Lieutenant Peter Donovan and his buddies, Lester “Doc” Pleasant and Kateb “Dodge” el Hariti, are the main characters in this war novel about fighting in Anbar Province, Iraq. These are fictional characters who serve as representative military personnel fighting in Iraq for one, two and even more tours. Their story is told in flashbacks between their past service to their present lives now they are no longer in the Marines. Their job is to clear out former battle areas or roads where explosives and grenades have been left behind for the traveling American military personnel. It’s a life and/or death mission!
The rule of the title is to scan carefully and quickly, looking for explosives or enemy attackers. It is repeated often and never taken for granted as the story shows how random and shocking every death or severe injury is. It’s obvious that it’s almost impossible to spot every looming danger but these Marine fighters are superbly trained in tire tracks, spotting color, and other phenomena that save many more lives than are taken! But these men are human and it’s obvious that the horrors of this war take their toll; on the job, a type of black humor and constant teasing and joking help them survive, but upon their return to civilian life, booze, sex, and violence clearly show the PTSD effects of living with this hell on a day-to-day basis.
Other issues abound such as issuing a command that might cause the Marines to miss an ensuing attack, thereby causing questions of blame. As these fighters are so united, any diminishment of trust is as deadly as an exploding device psychologically and therefore a danger. Another is about those men who agreed to work for American troops as translators, as “Dodge” does.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Michael Pitre writes about war, battle and the aftermath with a depth of understanding that is authentic and soul-penetrating. His straightforward language and matter-of-fact descriptions of the controlled and disciplined approach to modern warfare by the organized military, the uncontrollable nature and results of the actual fighting, the indiscriminate destruction of people's lives and the shearing of social fabric are totally effective--much more effective than they could be if adorned with all the action adjectives and adverbs thinkable.

Pitre's novel follows the lives of three main characters--all young men in their 20s, without much prewar life experience. There is Pete Donovan, the thoughtful platoon leader, who heads a mine-clearing platoon and is therefore saddled with responsibilities he hasn't been prepared for; Doc Pleasant, the kid who is a natural as a combat medic, but who eventually sees too much suffering and death; and Dodge (Kateb) the bright Iraqi university student obsessed by "Huckleberry Finn" who becomes an interpreter for Donovan and Doc's unit after his own alienation from a family that has fallen from privilege with the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Wonderful secondary characters flavor the protagonists' lives in battle and in the aftermath.

The unadorned honesty of this novel makes every page interesting and credible. I was truly sorry when the story ended, leaving all of the principal characters in hopeful, but not completely resolved situations. This is not a criticism by any means. When authors leave you wanting more then surely they have succeeded. Extraordinary read and highly recommended.
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