Michael Pitre * Bloomsbury USA * August 26, 2014 * 400 Pages
I loved Fives and Twenty Fives start to finish. It wasn’t a devastatingly emotional read, but I felt deeply invested in it, invested in its characters. I grew to care about these soldiers, and, of course, I wanted them to make it out okay. I wanted them to be whole, functioning, and (at least somewhat) happy people when they completed their service–and I was upset when not all of them were.
As much as I loved the people, they actually weren’t the driving force of the book. I think the main focus was actually the war itself: the conflict, the fighting, the anxiety, the death, the loss, and the small moments of humor and tenuous connection that made it all even slightly bearable. I thought Pitre did an excellent job of creating an intense environment that was descriptive, believable, and balanced.
In fact, one of the things I most appreciated about this book was Pitre’s ability to show both the good and bad sides of war–and the people who fight it. There are no completely good guys here. And there aren’t even any bad guys, honestly. Just a bunch of different groups with competing goals and beliefs. The people are all flawed, sure, but it’s clear that both sides are also doing what they think is best for themselves and their families.
Ultimately, this was a wonderful read with just the right amount of depth, description, and mystery. It isn’t the happiest book you’ll ever read, but it could be one of the best.
On a side note, I loved what Pitre wrote about his wife in his acknowledgements. Ironically, the last paragraph in that section is what finally made me tear up a bit. I wish both of them the best of luck and happiness in life.