cover image Fives and Twenty-Fives

Fives and Twenty-Fives

Michael Pitre. Bloomsbury, $27 (416p) ISBN 978-1-62040-754-7

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. [em]Agent: Rob McQuilkin, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (Sept.) [/em]