Review by: Shari Coffey
University of Cincinnati
Adjustment to civilian life is a widely recognized challenge for military members returning from deployment. This challenge can be further complicated by joining or returning to a university setting. Fives and Twenty-Fives follows fictional Marine Lieutenant Patrick Donovan after his active duty tour in Iraq as he ventures into graduate school. The reader has to wonder how much of this narrative reflects the personal experiences of the novel’s author, Michael Pitre, who deployed twice to Iraq as a Marine and then completed an MBA.
Pitre also introduces the reader to members of Donovan’s Road Repair Platoon by rotating voices and flashing between the Iraq deployment and present day. Inclusion of these two additional voices affirms the self-doubt Donovan shares in his narrations. Donovan’s perceptions of his inadequacy as a lieutenant persist into the struggle to find his place in his academic endeavors.
The themes of alcoholism and poor faculty treatment are stereotypes applied to the student veteran experience. Donovan embraces alcohol as a way to shut off the world, block out memories and fall asleep on a nightly basis. In class, a professor singles out Donovan to share some of his leadership insights from his time in the Marines. This section is a particularly disturbing glance at what some student veterans report feeling in the classroom.
However, Pitre also weaves in the positive assumptions of military diligence through Donovan's dedication to tackling graduate school and an internship. While this story is not representative of all student veterans, it does highlight some of the real struggles they face. This is a valuable book for advisors who work with veterans in terms of providing perspective. Donovan's experience is extreme, but some of the details are extraordinary. Pitre takes the reader to the heat and discomfort of Iraq while these Marines are required to stay focused on proper procedure, structure and safety. These notions of perseverance and commitment in the face of extreme conditions are applicable to many veterans.
This is not a theory-based book of best practices and it does not provide concrete steps to interacting with student veterans. It is a read that permits advisors an avenue for finding ways to appreciate the experiences of our student veterans. Pitre also provides some subtle insight as to what not to say to veterans in passages where Donovan is treated more like an attraction than a person by his internship supervisor and his professor. It is difficult to label this book as entertainment due to the heavy nature of what it covers, but it is thoroughly worthwhile for those seeking connection with student veterans.
Fives and Twenty-Fives. (2014). Review by Shari Coffey. Book by Michael Pitre. New York, NY 10018: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 400 pp. $17.00 (Paperback). ISBN 978-1-62040-755-4, http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/fives-and-twenty-fives-9781620407547/.