It's the rule-always watch your fives and twenty-fives. When a convoy halts to investigate a possible roadside bomb, stay in the vehicle and scan five meters in every direction. A bomb inside five meters cuts through the armor, killing everyone in the truck.Read more...
It's the rule-always watch your fives and twenty-fives. When a convoy halts to investigate a possible roadside bomb, stay in the vehicle and scan five meters in every direction. A bomb inside five meters cuts through the armor, killing everyone in the truck. Once clear, get out and sweep twenty-five meters. A bomb inside twenty-five meters kills the dismounted scouts investigating the road ahead.
Fives and twenty-fives mark the measure of a marine's life in the road repair platoon. Dispatched to fill potholes on the highways of Iraq, the platoon works to assure safe passage for citizens and military personnel. Their mission lacks the glory of the infantry, but in a war where "every" pothole contains a hidden bomb, road repair brings its own danger.
Lieutenant Donavan leads the platoon, painfully aware of his shortcomings and isolated by his rank. Doc Pleasant, the medic, joined for opportunity, but finds his pride undone as he watches friends die. And there's Kateb, known to the Americans as Dodge, an Iraqi interpreter whose love of American culture-from hip-hop to the dog-eared copy of "Huck Finn "he carries-is matched only by his disdain for what Americans are doing to his country.
Returning home, they exchange one set of decisions and repercussions for another, struggling to find a place in a world that no longer knows them. A debut both transcendent and rooted in the flesh, "Fives and Twenty-Fives" is a deeply necessary novel.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-06-16
- Reviewer: Staff
Two-tour Marine veteran Pitre’s affecting debut delivers an unflinching portrait of the Iraq war, both through flashbacks to the conflict and stories about its principal characters once they have returned home. The novel’s protagonists are 1st Lt. Peter Donovan, who receives a Bronze Star Medal after defending a downed American helicopter’s crash site under heavy fire in Ramadi; Lester “Doc” Pleasant, a medic dishonorably discharged for developing a dependency on his own supplies after witnessing a roadside IED explosion and the gruesome death of two members of his unit; and Kateb “Dodge” el-Hariti, a former student at Baghdad University who works as an interpreter for Donovan’s team, helping them deal with locals as they clear and reseal potholes containing buried artillery shells. Interspersed with official records and letters between characters, Pitre’s restrained depictions of Doc and Donovan’s wartime doings and their labored readjustment to civilian life—which involves avoiding psychological triggers, drinking too much, and feigning interest in new career pursuits and girlfriends—is praiseworthy. But it’s the nuanced take on Dodge’s divided loyalties—to his family, country, and postwar identity as an activist in Tunisia pressing for President Ben Ali’s resignation—that imbues the novel with depth and integrity. Agent: Rob McQuilkin, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (Sept.)
Reverberations of time at war
Michael Pitre’s unforgettable debut, while not a memoir, is just as brutally honest as one in its depiction of the Iraq War, to which the author was twice deployed before leaving the Marine Corps in 2010. Pitre’s harrowing story centers on three men: two ex-Marines now forging new lives back in the States, and an Iraqi who served as their interpreter and is now trying to gain asylum in this country.
Lt. Pete Donovan was in charge of a Road Repair Platoon, whose daily mission was to fill potholes in the roads crisscrossing Al Anbar Province. The first step was checking them for IEDs: first in a five-meter circle in every direction, then 25 meters—the distance in which anyone on the ground would be killed if an IED exploded.
Lester “Doc” Pleasant was Donovan’s corpsman—the medical guy assigned to the platoon. When he returns to New Orleans after a dishonorable discharge for illegal procurement and use of drugs, Doc still carries his trauma bag with him everywhere . . . and keeps the programs from the memorial services of all his colleagues who died in chronological order in a cigar box, along with his dog tags.
Kateb, nicknamed Dodge by the Marines, was the platoon’s Iraqi interpreter. Immersed in American pop culture from heavy metal bands to Mark Twain, Dodge always carries a paperback copy of Huckleberry Finn in his back pocket—the subject of his thesis for a professor who was killed by insurgents.
In chapters alternating among the voices of these three men and moving back and forth in time, Pitre delves into the horrors they’ve experienced in the war and how they’re barely coping in the present. The novel is full of scenes that the reader will find hard to forget—like Doc frantically avoiding the New Year’s Day fireworks in New Orleans, their sounds like a machine-gun firing range; or Pete choosing to drink alone, since when his tongue loosens, “even the memories that seem funny in my head come out sounding like the summer vacation of a psychopath.”
Pitre’s depiction of the war, both in Iraq and in its reverberations back home, is obviously intensely personal—but at the same time, its messages are universal and timeless. Fives and Twenty-Fives is a highly recommended novel of this controversial and protracted war.