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Fives and Twenty-Fives Hardcover – August 26, 2014
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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
"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] 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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
I bought this book after hearing the author on the radio discussing how his service as a junior officer had circumscribed his role in both public and private social interactions after returning home. His humorous examples were moving and seemed to reveal a talent for empathy that I was happy to find in his novel. The breadth of that talent brought Webb's Fields of Fire to mind.
If Pitre never writes another word, the world will still owe him for sharing so much with it.
We should all thank him for his service, as a writer and a Leader of Marines.
This is an enjoyable fiction and a real story of the complexity and reality of the Iraq War that you won't find on the nightly news.
It's a bit of James Jones and a little James Lee Burke. You'll be telling friends to get a copy.
Those of us who have never served can never do too much to understand those that did. Reading this book is an informative and entertaining way to do that.
Spare but vivid descriptions, great characters, and great pacing make for a page turner that I just could not put down.
Very well written.