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You Know When the Men Are Gone

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Reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Tim O'Brien, an unforgettable collection of interconnected short stories. In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls... You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain. You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned Reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Tim O'Brien, an unforgettable collection of interconnected short stories. In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls... You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain. You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, and, best of all, no more front doors slamming before dawn as they trudge out for their early formation, sneakers on metal stairs, cars starting, shouts to the windows above to throw them down their gloves on cold desert mornings. Babies still cry, telephones ring, Saturday morning cartoons screech, but without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life. There is an army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas. Through a series of loosely interconnected stories, Siobhan Fallon takes readers onto the base, inside the homes, into the marriages and families-intimate places not seen in newspaper articles or politicians' speeches. When you leave Fort Hood, the sign above the gate warns, You've Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming. It is eerily prescient.


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Reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Tim O'Brien, an unforgettable collection of interconnected short stories. In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls... You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain. You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned Reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Tim O'Brien, an unforgettable collection of interconnected short stories. In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls... You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain. You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, and, best of all, no more front doors slamming before dawn as they trudge out for their early formation, sneakers on metal stairs, cars starting, shouts to the windows above to throw them down their gloves on cold desert mornings. Babies still cry, telephones ring, Saturday morning cartoons screech, but without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life. There is an army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas. Through a series of loosely interconnected stories, Siobhan Fallon takes readers onto the base, inside the homes, into the marriages and families-intimate places not seen in newspaper articles or politicians' speeches. When you leave Fort Hood, the sign above the gate warns, You've Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming. It is eerily prescient.

30 review for You Know When the Men Are Gone

  1. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Set in Fort Hood, Texas, Siobhan Fallon’s eight stories revolve around the separation between military men posted in Iraq and their loved ones back home. These are powerful, moving stories. Every day the women left behind wonder if this is the day they get the worst possible news, and fear as well that their men are unfaithful abroad. The men in combat constantly worry about whether they will have families to return to, and sometimes they wonder if they want to return to the families or relation Set in Fort Hood, Texas, Siobhan Fallon’s eight stories revolve around the separation between military men posted in Iraq and their loved ones back home. These are powerful, moving stories. Every day the women left behind wonder if this is the day they get the worst possible news, and fear as well that their men are unfaithful abroad. The men in combat constantly worry about whether they will have families to return to, and sometimes they wonder if they want to return to the families or relationships they have. Fallon makes the fears of all her characters palpable. And it is mostly fears that are her primary focus. Siobhan Fallon - image from her FB pages A warrant officer uses his leave to spy on his wife, expecting to find infidelity. A woman finds a suspect e-mail sent to her husband by a woman. Can she believe her husband’s denials? The harm that comes to soldiers affects their loved ones. An injured soldier wonders whether his wife will accept him. A widow struggles to cope with her loss. Was her dead husband really a hero or just another casualty? Being with family at all is hard for one soldier who yearns to be back with his men, taking care of them. Wives struggle to communicate with war-changed husbands. She bit her lip and wondered if this was the sum of a marriage, wordless recriminations or reconciliations, every breath either striving against or toward the other person, each second a decision to exert or abdicate the self. But war is not the only source of pain and mortal peril. One mother must contend with a rebellious teen daughter while wondering if her breast cancer has metastasized.There was a time limit on a child’s affection, that each month, week, day whittled away at it until he, too, would stretch and grow out of childhood and into something prickly and strange. The women on the base have to deal with each others problems, as well as their own. One lonely wife is clearly not taking proper care of her children, is going out at night, leaving them alone. What should her peers pass on, keep secret? Fallon uses some nice, taut imagery but does not overdo it. Surfers battling rough surf reflect the difficulty faced by a couple in turmoil. An original version of The Little Mermaid echoes an injured soldier’s return home. Fallon offers insights and observations beyond the immediate family concerns. In a particularly compelling tale, a soldier is assigned a female interpreter, and changes as a result.No one notices the women in this country and therefore no one notices how much the women notice. Fallon also passes along information that was news to me about the rights of women under Saddam. She adds details of life on a military base, the social lives of the army wives, about base housing, regulations about things like how high your grass can grow before you get fined, the significance of gold stars. She should know, having written from personal experience. I have two disappointments with this book. By their nature short stories leave us just when we are settling in with characters. Fallon is quick to engage but the medium is limiting. Also, I would like for this to have been a longer collection. It is a bit small caliber at 141 pps. But what there is is very high quality. I was reminded while reading this of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried getting at the whole by piecing together parts. (Yes, I learned that there was a reference to O’Brien in the promotional copy, but I came to this on my own, without having read that) While this may not rise to the level of that classic, it is a finely crafted collection and I look forward to reading more from this talented writer. =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter, Instagram and FB pages Winner of the 2012 PEN CENTER USA LITERARY Award in Fiction A recent biographical article appeared in the NY Times - The Kisses That Paid My Rent There are many more in her site A Reading Guide, from her site

  2. 5 out of 5

    Idarah

    "In my stories...I wanted to capture the moments that lead up to a deployment as well as those that follow a return. And I wanted to focus not only on the soldiers fighting on the front lines but also on the families that wait at home and try their best to stay intact, try their best to find everything they need within those guarded gates." –Siobhan Fallon I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories. I was born and raised in a city that houses the largest Army installation in the United Stat "In my stories...I wanted to capture the moments that lead up to a deployment as well as those that follow a return. And I wanted to focus not only on the soldiers fighting on the front lines but also on the families that wait at home and try their best to stay intact, try their best to find everything they need within those guarded gates." –Siobhan Fallon I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories. I was born and raised in a city that houses the largest Army installation in the United States. The base itself is insular, and it wasn't until my return after a ten year absence from my hometown, that I was able to work along side army wives, veterans, and soldiers. I love hearing about their experiences, their hometowns, and how they're coping. These stories could be about anyone, and wherein their beauty lies. I was left wanting more! I read the opening paragraph at 1:00 this afternoon, and read the final sentence four hours later. That's not characteristic for me, but the interweaving stories were so immersive, her style of prose so welcoming. I cannot wait to read her full length novel, The Confusion of Languages.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    Yeah, the smart ass in me wants to say, "You know when the men are gone because battery sales go through the roof." BUT, that would be a great injustice to this terrific book of stories about life for those serving in and "married to" the US military. From a soldier counting the days until he can get the hell out of Iraq, to the women who simply wait for a loved one's safe return, Fallon has captured the wide range of emotions and temptations faced by those in this unique situation. How difficul Yeah, the smart ass in me wants to say, "You know when the men are gone because battery sales go through the roof." BUT, that would be a great injustice to this terrific book of stories about life for those serving in and "married to" the US military. From a soldier counting the days until he can get the hell out of Iraq, to the women who simply wait for a loved one's safe return, Fallon has captured the wide range of emotions and temptations faced by those in this unique situation. How difficult it must be to watch a spouse climb aboard a bus and "deploy" for a year or more to an uncertain future... From the title story: She wanted to worry about ordinary things like whether her husband forgot his lunch or got a bonus, not that he might get shot or that he'd be crossing a street in Baghdad and never get to the other side. Or the mixed feelings of those who signed up in a patriotic frenzy and have now grown to regret their decisions... From Camp Liberty : But he wasn't the only one who had joined up after September 11, who threw away a stable, ordinary American life of freedom and money, stirred by waving flags and the elusive vocabulary of an older generation: duty, honor, country. The others who enlisted for the same reasons were easy to spot: they were older and smarter than their rank said they should be and lately they were more cynical than their army peers. They tended to stick together although they didn't talk about their previous lives with one another either. Civilians thought they were patriots but they understood that they were just more naive than the rest of the country; they had heeded a call that most had not, and now they bided their time, waiting to get out. There are the things I never thought about, like how difficult it must be to have a man around the house who has been gone for so long, and how strange it must be for the ones who have returned... From The Last Stand : He stared at his wife. For thirteen months he had dreamed of their home together, the meals she had waiting for him, the hot running water, the refrigerator always full, the steady air-conditioning, and the comfortable couch. Everything in hindsight had seemed like a delirious indulgence, just to have electricity at the end of every switch and lightbulb. And finally, there is the unimaginable sadness of those whose loved ones never return... From Gold Star : The smell of the flowers made her think of wet dirt thumping down on the coffin, black high heels that pinched her toes, and the Kleenex that disintegrated into pulp as she rubbed it against her eyes. She had tried to be a dignified widow but was barely able to breathe during "Taps." A great collection about an unusual but necessary lifestyle. This was one of my favorite books of the year. A big thank you to my very first Goodreads friend, Billie Hinton, for telling me about this one.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Evanston Public Library

    Here is the fan mail I sent to Siobhan Fallon: Dear Siobhan Fallon, Yesterday I read your book. Today, in between the depressing news in the New York Times and the trivial news in the Chicago Tribune, I read it again. I've already recommended it to four people and will recommend it to many more (I'm a librarian, however, so don't get too excited about sales). The stories are so simple and so powerful. I was awake a good part of last night thinking about them. The characters are real and haunting Here is the fan mail I sent to Siobhan Fallon: Dear Siobhan Fallon, Yesterday I read your book. Today, in between the depressing news in the New York Times and the trivial news in the Chicago Tribune, I read it again. I've already recommended it to four people and will recommend it to many more (I'm a librarian, however, so don't get too excited about sales). The stories are so simple and so powerful. I was awake a good part of last night thinking about them. The characters are real and haunting, brought to life by force of need, yours and theirs. Thank you and thank NPR and Booklist for letting me know about your book. Her reply: Thank you so much! Wow, how great to hear from you (I have just gotten to Amman, Jordan, and jet lag has been cruel, but I've reread your email a couple of times with my first morning cup of coffee and your email is better than any early jolt of caffeine!). Librarians have been especially good to me, I am so happy to hear that you are recommending the book to your readers. Thanks again for taking the time to write. All the best to you, Siobhan Who wouldn't want to read a book by this author? (Nancy, North Branch)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    I wish I had better feelings about this story. I wanted to like it, and I think that the writer's ability is evident, but these stories all felt very "surface" to me. Yes, they talk about the emotions of the wives, the emotions of the men deployed, but they never felt like they pushed anything. Pardon the non-literary reference, but if this were American Idol, Simon Cowell would call all these stories quite safe. I'm not sure how this was possible, but this woman wrote an entire collection of st I wish I had better feelings about this story. I wanted to like it, and I think that the writer's ability is evident, but these stories all felt very "surface" to me. Yes, they talk about the emotions of the wives, the emotions of the men deployed, but they never felt like they pushed anything. Pardon the non-literary reference, but if this were American Idol, Simon Cowell would call all these stories quite safe. I'm not sure how this was possible, but this woman wrote an entire collection of stories about soldiers and war without ever making any commentary on the war (even implied) or about the controversial aspects of this particular war. In that way, I thought this book was very politically correct and is that something a real writer can ever afford to be? Like some other reviewers have said, I too felt like the stories were a little repetitive of one another. Sure, these are linked stories and some things should be coming up again, but the themes, the messages, even the characters seemed to be very similar. I didn't really feel like I was getting anything new after reading the first few. I also wonder why the author chose to tell so many of these stories from the male soldiers' povs. She has a unique experience of living on base, being a wife who is left behind in this strange world when all the men leave, and yet, instead of exploring different aspects of those characters, she chose to go with the men, the more typical war stories. The ones she chose to tell about the women--such as the first one--were clearly the strongest. I do feel like maybe I'm being a little too harsh on the writer and clearly many people do like these stories quite a bit (including Alan Heathcock, a writer whose latest collection I really admire, so go figure). I would give this writer a second chance and would be interested to see what she would write if she moved away from this subject matter.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Bazzett

    As I closed the book after reading the last story in You Know When the Men Are Gone, I couldn't help thinking that you also know when an important new talent has emerged on the literary scene. Because Siobhan Fallon simply blew me away with these eight interrelated pieces which detail with a near surgical precision exactly what it is like - how it feels - to be part of the all-volunteer army that continues to fight our so-called "war on terror" thousands of miles away on the other side of our ev As I closed the book after reading the last story in You Know When the Men Are Gone, I couldn't help thinking that you also know when an important new talent has emerged on the literary scene. Because Siobhan Fallon simply blew me away with these eight interrelated pieces which detail with a near surgical precision exactly what it is like - how it feels - to be part of the all-volunteer army that continues to fight our so-called "war on terror" thousands of miles away on the other side of our ever-shrinking planet. Every story in this jewel-like collection contains at least one moment - and often more - which will bring the hot sting of unshed tears to your eyes, if indeed you succeed in containing those tears. Because Fallon has succeeded in showing you another side of the wars, the hidden costs on the home front, which test, stretch, and often destroy military families. And these are young families, obviously - men and women, many barely out of their teens, who should be enjoying each other and their young children and babies. Instead they are faced with long and lonely separations, followed by reunions ruined by the unexplainable depressions, black rages and abberant behavior that are the unmistakable markers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While reading Fallon's stories I kept trying to think of other books I might have read which deal with the wives' stories. All that came to mind was the currently-running TV series, Army Wives, which my wife and I watch every week. I know it is based on a book, but we have not read it. Then I thought of a book from another war, Tim Farrington's moving and beautiful 2005 novel, Lizzie's War, which utilized shifting viewpoints, moving back and forth between the marine combatant in the Vietnam jungle and his wife and children back home in the States. Fallon's book easily equals that accomplishment. Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge also came to mind, mostly because that novel too is rendered as a group of interrelated stories with the title character as the unifying element. In Fallon's book what unites the stories is not a single character, but a much larger entity, the army. And also, of course, the war, with its continuing deployments and separations, which eat away at the foundations of all those still-new, young and vulnerable marriages and relationships. Strout's book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I have a feeling that Fallon's book will also win its share of prizes. Finally, I think You Know When the Men Are Gone should become required reading for the decision makers in Washington, from the President and Secretary of Defense all the way on down the chain of command, both civilian and military. It's probably naive of me to think this, but perhaps, having read these stories of heartbreak and misery, they would not be so quick to vote for war. It should also be read by every active duty soldier - in all branches of service. It would promote a better understanding of the lot of the women they leave behind every time they deploy. I guess I'm saying that the book deserves an extremely wide audience, because this slim volume of stories could - should - reverberate in our country for years to come. I give this book my unqualified and highest recommendation.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    A well-crafted collection of short stories about soldiers and their wives back at Fort Hood. The stories are threaded together, but not in a distracting or forced way. I would have welcomed twice as many stories to have more time with these characters. Ms. Fallon's spare and devastating stories show us people losing each other, losing limbs, losing their lives and more than that, shows us how hard it is to live at all when you wake up every morning fearing loss in a way that blots out virtually A well-crafted collection of short stories about soldiers and their wives back at Fort Hood. The stories are threaded together, but not in a distracting or forced way. I would have welcomed twice as many stories to have more time with these characters. Ms. Fallon's spare and devastating stories show us people losing each other, losing limbs, losing their lives and more than that, shows us how hard it is to live at all when you wake up every morning fearing loss in a way that blots out virtually everything else. I didn't read the author blurb on the jacket until I had read a couple of stories, but I was sure she lived on base, because it was all so spot on, every detail exactly right. I see that a couple of people compared this to Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried." I loved that book and agree that this one belongs in the same conversation. PS. I didn't look at the author's picture or read her bio because I thought this was the comedian Siobhan Fallon from SNL and Seinfeld fame. Initially, I was confused, thinking "Gee, this isn't funny at all." Sigh, more proof that I am a moron.

  8. 4 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    In this terse and bold book of eight interconnected stories featuring Fort Hood army wives, breakout author Siobhan Fallon invites readers to peek through the hazy base-house curtains into largely uncharted territory. She offers an intimate glimpse of the spouses and children left behind to cope when the men in the infantry battalion of 1-7 Cav are deployed to Iraq. We've seen media pictures proffering the stalwart strength and Mona Lisa smiles of army wives, but we haven't been host to their pri In this terse and bold book of eight interconnected stories featuring Fort Hood army wives, breakout author Siobhan Fallon invites readers to peek through the hazy base-house curtains into largely uncharted territory. She offers an intimate glimpse of the spouses and children left behind to cope when the men in the infantry battalion of 1-7 Cav are deployed to Iraq. We've seen media pictures proffering the stalwart strength and Mona Lisa smiles of army wives, but we haven't been host to their private trials--of farewells, homecomings, and transitions. Fallon captures their mixed emotions and fears with a gritty realism, and reveals critical, vital moments in their insular and marginal lives. She glances sharply into the tearful deployment, the lonely absence, and the stirring homecoming. How the wives cope with these changes is a recurring theme. This is fiction, but Fallon writes with authority: her husband, a major, was deployed in Iraq for two tours of duty while she lived in Fort Hood. She knows the depth of the cookie-cutter, thin-walled houses--they are occupied by courageous and terrified women with thick skins, empty beds, and tentative thoughts. The wives in this book form a proxy family together, the FRG (Family Readiness group), where, for better or worse, they convene and connect. They bond in this dry and desolate patch of Central Texas, support each other, and wait for news of the front. Mingling with civilians off base is distressing. It's painful to watch a dad knock around a ball with his son, or a couple dining out and dancing cheek to cheek. Some of these wives have babies who haven't yet met their daddies. How they endure the complex emotions of separation drives the narrative and compels the reader. As Fallon shows us, the time in limbo is often marked with dread and confusion. It can be a powerful change agent, mushroom their fear, or injure self-esteem, to name a few effects. It can dash a formerly positive body image, especially if anxiety and loneliness create eye bags and a gaunt complexion. The women in her stories often have sleep disturbances and eat erratically. One woman quells her insomnia by listening to her neighbor's routines through the permeable walls. In the first story, Meg goes to the Commissary, eyes a raw slab of steak--the rivulets of fat, the sanguinary juices, the protruding bone--and imagines a mortal battle wound. The women wake up every morning and scan the Internet news for reports of ambushes and roadside bombs, wondering if their husbands are safe in their quarters or unrecognizably shattered in numberless pieces. Meanwhile, they have individual, separate concerns. Fallon kicks it up a notch with her story about a wife in remission from breast cancer, waiting to see the latest reports of her medical tests. In the meantime, her kids did not show up for school, and she has to deal with the embarrassment of soldiers on base assisting, investigating, and scrutinizing her actions that day. And, what is it like to communicate with your loved one only through technology, to feel the unbearable absence of touch? To wait, and wait, time folding in on itself, or rolling out, while you cleave, living on emails, snail mail, and the rare skype. And, even when they return, the complex dynamics of adjustment and role reversal are stunning; the wives have been independent for so long that sharing a life again can be raw and awkward. Instead of joyful and warm, it may be glacial and fraught with erosion. All that alone time carves out multiple reflections and haunting desires. At least one wife has some lacerating news for her returning and wounded husband. And, what is it like for the men, the soldiers and officers who have bravely committed this time to the safety and well being of their fellow infantrymen? They didn't sign up to divide their loyalties, to betray their families, but the quixotic beast of war invades the frontier of domestic life, too. Some of them sneak cell phones into their camp. One of the soldiers becomes enchanted with a comely foreign interpreter while on a mission to search for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). Another soldier isn't sure if he is just paranoid or failed to perceive his wife's change of heart, and acts frantically on his fears. And some of them don't make it home. For those wives, it is the pain of the unknown, the moment of death that is now gone, that took their husband away. That image, the memories, and the disfigurement of grief remain. Imagine, all alone, with a flashlight, tiptoeing in the dark inside a squat, yellow, dusty rectangular building, suddenly bumping up against a life. You emit a startled gasp. That's what these stories are like. Fallon's prose is stark and incandescent. There are no frills or filler necessary to embellish these candid characters and situations, and I have only hinted at a few. The passages are powerful and lean, the nuances chilling and urgent, and the dénouements radiate with ambiguity. These are bracing mini-portraits with mega-wattage. When you hear Fort Hood mentioned in the news again, it will palpate with familiarity. You'll feel a jolt. It will never again be just that abstract military post in Texas. You'll know when the men are gone. This review is based on an advanced reading copy I received from the publisher in a lottery giveaway. I was not asked to write a review or praise this book. Rather, I was compelled by the piercing and captivating stories themselves. See my full review on mostlyfiction.com http://bookreview.mostlyfiction.com/2...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Rochelle

    I can admit to being unsure about this book. I didn't think I would be able to connect with any of the stories because I'm not the wife of anyone, much less the wife of a soldier. However, I was hooked after the first story. Beautifully written, with many voices and viewpoints. It provides a glimpse into the lives of our soldiers and their families and allows the reader to understand (even if just as an outsider) the sacrifices the soldiers AND their wives make to protect our country.

  10. 4 out of 5

    ~☆~Autumn♥♥

    I read this a few years ago and I am thinking about reading it again as I enjoyed it so much. I just finished this book for the second time and its excellent. Her depiction of military life is right on target.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    This is an intelligently-written collection of short stories, all set on the same military base. I think my book group members will enjoy the realistic slices-of-life, peppered with real-life places and events. There is a massive cliffhanger at the conclusion of one story, which I think will likely be frustrating to readers.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Rasmussen

    In You Know When the Men Are Gone, Siobhan Fallon writes with grace and intelligence about the army wives at Fort Hood who are waiting for their men to return from Iraq. Fallon follows the lives of women with children, women with cancer, women who can't bear another night of sleeping alone between flypaper walls. Some of Fallon's women find courage in the others left behind, some take comfort in a past without war -- in their memories, their Hawaii's, their first true loves. All have a sense tha In You Know When the Men Are Gone, Siobhan Fallon writes with grace and intelligence about the army wives at Fort Hood who are waiting for their men to return from Iraq. Fallon follows the lives of women with children, women with cancer, women who can't bear another night of sleeping alone between flypaper walls. Some of Fallon's women find courage in the others left behind, some take comfort in a past without war -- in their memories, their Hawaii's, their first true loves. All have a sense that real life stops the moment the men board the busses and leave Fort Hood. You Know When the Men Are Gone is a poignant debut, written with the kind of love and detailed accuracy that can only come from living behind the barbed wire at Fort Hood, as Siobhan Fallon has. You'll laugh with her characters and you'll cry with them. Like them, you'll try to add up what it's all worth. You Know When the Men Are Gone is funny, sad, wise, and essential. Turn off the news and pick up this book. You won't be disappointed.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tara Chevrestt

    The author has done a superb job of capturing military life, both from the POV of spouses waiting at home and the soldier's risking their lives everyday in combat. Also brings to light the difficulties soldier's face trying re adjust to life back at home. For full review: http://wwwbookbabe.blogspot.com/2010/...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    Hauntingly real. Authentically felt. Five Exemplary Stars!!!!! "[T]he tears streaming . . . mascara pooling under their eyes, noses running. It was fine to look this horrible now that the men were too far away to see their faces, fine to finally grieve messy and ugly . . . They cried now as much for themselves and the lonely year ahead as they did for the men heading off to the dangers of war." - FALLON, SIOBHAN. "Inside the Break." You Know When the Men Are Gone." Anthologies can be hit-or-miss. Hauntingly real. Authentically felt. Five Exemplary Stars!!!!! "[T]he tears streaming . . . mascara pooling under their eyes, noses running. It was fine to look this horrible now that the men were too far away to see their faces, fine to finally grieve messy and ugly . . . They cried now as much for themselves and the lonely year ahead as they did for the men heading off to the dangers of war." - FALLON, SIOBHAN. "Inside the Break." You Know When the Men Are Gone." Anthologies can be hit-or-miss. They typically contain a handful of standouts in a sea of mediocrity. Fallon's stories depicting life at Fort Hood during times of war, however, are far from mediocre. They are absolutely superb!!! Authentic, gritty, heartfelt, captivating, emotionally striking.... This powerful collection of inner-related stories - conveying the heartaches and challenges, triumphs and tragedies, unique to military life - is as real as it gets. "He tried, he really did, he tried to care when Marissa told him about her second-graders with their video games . . . or when his mother complained about gas prices, or when his father had a lousy day at golf. Something was wrong with him, some part of him was still keyed into Baghdad, into his Humvee, into his night vision goggles, his men riding down the streets not knowing what was at the end of them, and everything that he thought would make him happy suddenly seemed so inconsequential." - FALLON, SIOBHAN. "Camp Liberty." You Know When the Men Are Gone. Some stories are heartwarming. Others are hard to bear. All evoke raw emotions. Not everyone makes good choices. Not everyone plays fair. And not all stories have happy endings. "The smell of the flowers made her think of wet dirt thumping down on the coffin . . . Kleenex that disintegrated into pulp as she rubbed against her eyes. She had tried to be a dignified widow but was barely able to breathe during "Taps." - FALLON, SIOBHAN. "Gold Star." You Know When the Men Are Gone. Mistakes are made, harsh words are spoken, tears are cried, and life is messy. But the expectations and responsibilities placed upon military members and their families, accentuate everything - sometimes to the breaking point.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    These related short stories depict Army life from the eyes of (mostly) the women left at home. Some of the marriages were hastily put together prior to deployment or quickly assembled to wives met while on deployment, others are well established relationships, all emphasize how hard it is to be apart so often and for so long as the war in the Middle East continues on. Fallon illustrates how hard it is to miss out on the day to day, the ordinary, whether that concerns raising the children, the lo These related short stories depict Army life from the eyes of (mostly) the women left at home. Some of the marriages were hastily put together prior to deployment or quickly assembled to wives met while on deployment, others are well established relationships, all emphasize how hard it is to be apart so often and for so long as the war in the Middle East continues on. Fallon illustrates how hard it is to miss out on the day to day, the ordinary, whether that concerns raising the children, the loss of a pregnancy, illness, or infidelities, some real, others imagined. There’s also the horror of what the troops are going through and the possibility of their being wounded or killed. The not knowing on both sides is their common enemy. Fallon does a great job showing the unknowing general public what these military families go through.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Marro

    I can't find the letter I wrote to Siobhan Fallon after reading her collection of stories but I can remember how I felt when I came up on her stories and her writing: grateful. Although loosely connected, each story brings me deep inside the mind and hearts of military spouses, the men who are deployed, and the full range of the challenges that rise from the choices they have made. In one that touched me deeply, a woman struggles with her adolescent daughter as she copes with the news that her c I can't find the letter I wrote to Siobhan Fallon after reading her collection of stories but I can remember how I felt when I came up on her stories and her writing: grateful. Although loosely connected, each story brings me deep inside the mind and hearts of military spouses, the men who are deployed, and the full range of the challenges that rise from the choices they have made. In one that touched me deeply, a woman struggles with her adolescent daughter as she copes with the news that her cancer might be worsening and her husband, who is responsible for the lives and welfare of his soldiers, is caring but out of reach. I came late to "You Know When The Men Are Gone," but I"m glad I found it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Years ago, William Tecumseh Sherman famously said, “War is hell.” Certainly, there has been an incredible canon of war literature that has focused on soldiers fighting on the battlefield and facing tough homecomings. But, to my knowledge, there has been no book that has powerfully shone the spotlight on the families – non-enlistees who experience “small and fragile” moments. That void has just been masterfully filled. In a haunting and downright electrifying debut, Sioban Fallon takes us to Fort Years ago, William Tecumseh Sherman famously said, “War is hell.” Certainly, there has been an incredible canon of war literature that has focused on soldiers fighting on the battlefield and facing tough homecomings. But, to my knowledge, there has been no book that has powerfully shone the spotlight on the families – non-enlistees who experience “small and fragile” moments. That void has just been masterfully filled. In a haunting and downright electrifying debut, Sioban Fallon takes us to Fort Hood, Texas, where the sign on the gate reads,”You’ve Survived The War, Now Survive The Homecoming.” In eight loosely linked interlocked stories, Ms. Fallon creates characters that are so authentic, so genuine, that the reader almost feels voyeuristic by peering into their world. In this world, there are extramarital affairs, physical and mental health crises, teenage rebellion, financial stresses, even scrapes with the law. The spouses – mostly women – are forced to “buck up”, knowing that the person they depend on most in the world is 5,000 miles from home in harm’s way. These stories are so devastatingly good – so unputdownable – that it’s hard to anoint a favorite. In the title story, an exotically beautiful and mysterious Serbian-born soldier’s wife is distrusted by the other wives and ends up creating an act of quiet desperation. In Camp Liberty, an investment-banker-turned-soldier experiences the clash of the soft and narcissistic life he yearns to return to and the realities of his battle life. His friendship with an Iraqi female interpreter offers him a rude awakening about what he really needs. In the most chilling story, Leave, an intelligence officer is convinced his wife is unfaithful and performs a reconnaissance, staking out his own basement. He reflects, “It was difficult to determine if someone was one-hundred-percent guilty, but nearly impossible to determine if someone was one-hundred-percent innocent.” Fallon rachets up the tension and desperation and doesn’t let go until the last word of the ambiguous ending – an ending that sent shivers through me. Another, Inside The Break, focuses on a wife who comes across an email disclosure of infidelity during her husband’s tour of duty. It takes his homecoming and his broken cries that rescue the marriage and show the couple how fortunate they are to be together. And in The Last Stand, a wounded twenty-one-year-old soldier reunites with his wife, a young college student who makes a choice to go her own way despite the consequences. These stories – and the others in this fine collection – are filled with compassion for those wracked with pain and loss, fear and jealousy, cynicism and at times, hope. There are powerful revelations and fascinating glimpses that delve deeply into this neglected world. Sioban Fallon – who herself lived in Fort Hood while her husband was on active duty in a war zone – never resorts to the jingoistic or the trite. Instead, with sparse, clean, and beautiful prose, she captures the reality of a small portion of society that deals with heightened stress and threat of deployments. You Know When The Men Are Gone is both a tribute to and an illuminating portrait of an often-overlooked world. It’s the kind of book you want to pass along to every one of your friends who loves to read. It’s quite simply a riveting debut that does what to many, seems to be impossible – bridges the gap of understanding between military families and civilians.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emily Crowe

    You Know When the Men Are Gone, a debut work from Siobhan Fallon, is a collection of loosely related short stories told mostly from the point of view of the women left behind at the army base of Fort Hood, TX, when their men deploy. (And yes, in this book it is invariably women who are left behind.) Unlike, for example, Olive Kitteridge or In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, which are really more novels told in stories, Fallon's stories are more disjointed, and though the theme of waiting is carried You Know When the Men Are Gone, a debut work from Siobhan Fallon, is a collection of loosely related short stories told mostly from the point of view of the women left behind at the army base of Fort Hood, TX, when their men deploy. (And yes, in this book it is invariably women who are left behind.) Unlike, for example, Olive Kitteridge or In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, which are really more novels told in stories, Fallon's stories are more disjointed, and though the theme of waiting is carried on throughout, the effect is one of disconnect, which serves to highlight the alienation that all of the characters seem to feel. Occasionally we get a man's perspective, but I found those narrative shifts a bit jarring, especially a story called "Leave," in which a soldier breaks into his own basement to stalk his wife during an unannounced leave because he suspects she has been seeing somebody else. In "Inside the Break," a woman waits to hear whether her husband has survived an insurgent attack; delirious with worry, she logs into his email account and is bewildered to find evidence that he is not only alive, but is possibly having an affair. Her short-lived relief takes on the ugly edge of suspicion, leaving her feeling worse than before. In another story, the reader learns why one widow avoids the Gold Star reserved parking--the words of gratitude and sympathy contrive to make her feel like she has lost her husband all over again. Every once in a while, Fallon strikes literary gold with her insight into the double burdens of being part of a military couple, leaving me wanting to know so much more than the short story format is able to provide. It makes me wonder how she might fare if she set her sights on a novel instead, really freeing herself into the lives of her characters instead of restricting her access in a short story. I suspect that the longer form might be her strong suit and I look forward to reading more from her. You Know When the Men Are Gone is forthcoming in January from Amy Einhorn Books, which is part of Penguin. I received my copy from my sales rep, the lovely Karl Krueger, who raved about it to me and pressed it into my hands. It's good, verging on the very good, and I think we can expect more work that is provocative from Fallon in the future.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This book had amazing reviews, stunning to the point I fully expected this to be one of the best books I’ve read in years. This is a format (linked short stories) that, when done right, I love. Furthermore, as these stories involve military families stationed at Ft. Hood, I expected the tales to be both evocative and unique. While I completely admire the women who keep it together when husbands are deployed (nothing short of heroic), these stories fell flat. The characters are so formulaic and I This book had amazing reviews, stunning to the point I fully expected this to be one of the best books I’ve read in years. This is a format (linked short stories) that, when done right, I love. Furthermore, as these stories involve military families stationed at Ft. Hood, I expected the tales to be both evocative and unique. While I completely admire the women who keep it together when husbands are deployed (nothing short of heroic), these stories fell flat. The characters are so formulaic and I never really got any additional insight into military life beyond what I’d already assumed (e.g. it’s really hard, really, really hard). And, I have to say, the ending to each story was terrible. Either it was too easy, or too open-ended, or just plain lame. I almost stopped reading when I got to the end of “Remission.” It was trite to say the least. Admittedly, my expectations for this were ridiculously high, so it was all but assured I’d be let down. Still, though, I do not get the hype. Part of me wonders if it’s a patriotic thing. Of course anything related to the military is going to be wonderful – we love the military! Thank you for your service! And while I personally love the military and am intensely grateful for the sacrifice of these families, this collection just didn’t do it for me. Clearly the author knows what she’s talking about, a military wife herself, but an authentic glimpse into a world I am unfamiliar with wasn’t enough to keep me engaged. The title is great though!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    A very strong series of poignant stories, on for the most part, military wives who are left alone as their husbands go off to war. The style is minimalist and very character driven. I feel the author has a strong feeling of the reality of raising and coping with children. She reveals well how these women cope and struggle with their long absent mates. None of them are perfect and are never quite in balance with their positive and negative forces. We are revealed the different “tribal” interaction A very strong series of poignant stories, on for the most part, military wives who are left alone as their husbands go off to war. The style is minimalist and very character driven. I feel the author has a strong feeling of the reality of raising and coping with children. She reveals well how these women cope and struggle with their long absent mates. None of them are perfect and are never quite in balance with their positive and negative forces. We are revealed the different “tribal” interactions. When the men return from combat they have become part of a tribe that is different than the one they belonged to prior to their pre-battle “tribe”. We are given – particularly in one story - of the inherent rift - between wives and soldiers and adolescent teenagers. She also deals well with the separation anxiety (sexual) from both female and male points of view. One of the strengths of Ms. Fallon’s writing is how she shifts perspective from story to story (and within a story). We are never seeing a ‘problem’ from one end of the telescope. In some the ending is enigmatic, in others a strong suggestion of built-up psychotic violence; but in others, loving attempts at reconciliation.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alex Templeton

    This collection features stories about the citizens of Fort Hood, Texas--in particular, the wives waiting for their husbands to come home from year-long deployments to Iraq. While I definitely felt that I got a window into a completely different way of life from my own (and all my best wishes are sent to the real-life counterparts of these story characters), I went away from this collection feeling more of an emotional connection to the condition the characters were in rather than the characters This collection features stories about the citizens of Fort Hood, Texas--in particular, the wives waiting for their husbands to come home from year-long deployments to Iraq. While I definitely felt that I got a window into a completely different way of life from my own (and all my best wishes are sent to the real-life counterparts of these story characters), I went away from this collection feeling more of an emotional connection to the condition the characters were in rather than the characters themselves. The people that populated these stories often felt like concepts--the lonely wife, the troubled soldier returning to his family--rather than real people. There were important questions about them that I felt were asked but not answered (the most glaring example of this would be, for me, in "Remission", where a troubled mother-daughter relationship was kept too far beneath the surface). I think this book would probably mean the most to those who had lived the experience of being a part of a military family; it didn't succeed in reaching out and grabbing at least this outsider.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matthew J. Hefti

    This book is an incredible work of art in its own right, but You Know When the Men Are Gone should be mandatory reading for all active duty soldiers. As those who deploy and return and deploy and return, we often pay lip service to those on the home front, but our understanding of the struggles of our wives and families back home are often far too superficial to have any value. This book illuminates the very real struggles and hardships endured by loved ones, without whom those in uniform would This book is an incredible work of art in its own right, but You Know When the Men Are Gone should be mandatory reading for all active duty soldiers. As those who deploy and return and deploy and return, we often pay lip service to those on the home front, but our understanding of the struggles of our wives and families back home are often far too superficial to have any value. This book illuminates the very real struggles and hardships endured by loved ones, without whom those in uniform would not be able to serve or serve effectively. This book does exactly what fiction is supposed to do: it places the reader right into the shoes of someone else, thereby expanding our understanding of the world, increasing our empathy and compassion, and allowing us to grow as human beings. Each of the stories in this collection is a tightly woven gem that captures all the sadness and pain of being human, without losing moments of joy and hope in the process.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This set of eight short stories focuses on the absence of a partner who is away at war. The absence itself is both a lack and a constant presence in the lives of their loved ones, and families cope (or don't) in different ways. Set mainly in the community of Fort Hood among the loved ones left behind, these stories shine light on an aspect of American life that is both very contemporary and very eternal. I really enjoyed this book. I sat down with it and found myself completely absorbed, to the This set of eight short stories focuses on the absence of a partner who is away at war. The absence itself is both a lack and a constant presence in the lives of their loved ones, and families cope (or don't) in different ways. Set mainly in the community of Fort Hood among the loved ones left behind, these stories shine light on an aspect of American life that is both very contemporary and very eternal. I really enjoyed this book. I sat down with it and found myself completely absorbed, to the point I forgot that I was reading. The prose is clean and without frills, but the sentences are each so evocative. There's nothing extraneous, each detail purposeful in fleshing out characters and the world of Fort Hood. The emotional lives of these characters were so easy to follow, and though I've never experienced life on an army base or had a partner in the military, I could understand the characters' emotions because Fallon depicted their lives, especially their feelings, so three-dimensionally and authentically. Plus, Fallon has a real talent for creating distinct characters in a very short amount of space; I wouldn't have confused any of the point of view characters for one another. I prefer novels to short stories, and at the end of most of Fallon's stories I was left thinking, "But I want more! There's more of a story here left to tell!" However, the stories did each come to a particular emotional conclusion, even if they didn't resolve everything, and they're very lightly interconnected, which gave me the sense of experiencing an even larger story. I was concerned about political content or soapboxing, but I was pleased to find that these stories were written apolitically, without any overt political agenda, about the war or otherwise. Note: I received a review copy of this book for free from the publisher via the First Reads program here at Goodreads.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sharyl

    Seldom do I finish a book in one or two sittings, but I did so with You Know When the Men Are Gone, by Siobhan Fallon. These eight short stories depict the lives of the soldiers and the left behind wives of Fort Hood, Texas. The wives have various ways of dealing with the stress, worry, and pressure of keeping their families together by themselves, while their husbands dream of coming home and live for that phone call. Fort Hood is a world within itself, and the families circle together closely, Seldom do I finish a book in one or two sittings, but I did so with You Know When the Men Are Gone, by Siobhan Fallon. These eight short stories depict the lives of the soldiers and the left behind wives of Fort Hood, Texas. The wives have various ways of dealing with the stress, worry, and pressure of keeping their families together by themselves, while their husbands dream of coming home and live for that phone call. Fort Hood is a world within itself, and the families circle together closely, acting as a temporary family, supporting each other. They live under the same rules and are in many ways a tightknit community. Despite the closeness and support, though, they are also isolated from the outside world and tend to move on every couple years. The future is never certain. Each story has a different narrator and its own sets of stressors. One story takes place in Iraq, but the rest happen in Fort Hood. Some stories are told from a wife's point of view, some from the soldier's, but all show extreme emotional anguish. Some kind of doubt haunts them all, and none of the stories are resolved. Fallon has left them open-ended, for our consideration. I found them all riveting. Once I'd started a story, I couldn't put it down. A great book for discussion, and I would recommend it to anyone. * I received this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program:)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews

    A glimpse of military life in Fort Hood...dedicated women waiting patiently and fearfully for dedicated men to return, and dedicated men and women wondering what it will be like when they do return. Will things be the way they were before, will it take a while to get back to the routine before separation, or will what they had be completely gone? Unless you have been there, you never know what others endure and what feelings grow or get lost when there is an extended period of absence from a love A glimpse of military life in Fort Hood...dedicated women waiting patiently and fearfully for dedicated men to return, and dedicated men and women wondering what it will be like when they do return. Will things be the way they were before, will it take a while to get back to the routine before separation, or will what they had be completely gone? Unless you have been there, you never know what others endure and what feelings grow or get lost when there is an extended period of absence from a loved one . As the book's individual stories unfolded, you could sympathize with the appealing characters and the difficult, but real situations. The reader will undeniably appreciate what military men and women have to endure away from home and what their loved ones deal with as they wait. Siobhan Fallon is an exceptionally talented storyteller. I am confident this will be a very popular book once it is published because of the subject matter and the focus of each section. The interest-rich stories kept you absorbed, but my preference is a connected story with similar characters throughout; therefore, I am going to rate the book 4/5 simply because of my personal obsession with the connectivity of a book's plot and its constant characters.

  26. 4 out of 5

    skein

    A dreamy half-lost gaze of a story collection - really, a novel broken into pieces. It dragged at me and pulled me under. I dreamt myself into that world -- it is our shared world, the world of soldiers gone from home and weapons and bombings -- but not my world, not my reality. Some fragments were more solid than others. The interpreter. The man at the window. The injured foot. Meg. All of this happening simultaneously and still within its own time, as one holds memory; it is no surprise that th A dreamy half-lost gaze of a story collection - really, a novel broken into pieces. It dragged at me and pulled me under. I dreamt myself into that world -- it is our shared world, the world of soldiers gone from home and weapons and bombings -- but not my world, not my reality. Some fragments were more solid than others. The interpreter. The man at the window. The injured foot. Meg. All of this happening simultaneously and still within its own time, as one holds memory; it is no surprise that this was drawn from the author's own life. I disagree strongly with some other reviewers that they are repetitive. Or rather I agree, but the maddening repetition is the damn point. This is what happens. And it goes on and on and on in infinite variations on love and sorrow and patience and loss, and always always we are waiting for an uncertain end. 4 stars for this emotional draw; it's so rare that I dream into fiction! - 3 for writing - at first it bothered me (oh the run on sentences without logical pause) - and then that, too, melted. Form into function. read via e-book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    CJ

    A somewhat disjointed, but still interesting slice of life look at being a military wife. Spot on with loads of the details - I'm a military wife although my husband is not full time - then again, these days, there isn't a whole lot of difference between active duty and reserve soldiers. The book was accurate enough that it was tough to read; military families face challenges other families don't, and there's a higher rate of divorce among military families for readily apparent reasons. There's A somewhat disjointed, but still interesting slice of life look at being a military wife. Spot on with loads of the details - I'm a military wife although my husband is not full time - then again, these days, there isn't a whole lot of difference between active duty and reserve soldiers. The book was accurate enough that it was tough to read; military families face challenges other families don't, and there's a higher rate of divorce among military families for readily apparent reasons. There's also a higher rate of suicides among soldiers than among the civilian population, again for pretty obvious reasons. I think the feeling of disjointedness may have come from the author's attempt to show a cross section of very different personalities and how various deployment and combat situations impacted families and soldiers differently. She stuck to her guns and showed brief glimpses of soldiers and wives, and she didn't feel the need to tie everything up neatly in a bow at the end of each character's segment, which I thought worked well.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    Siobhan Fallon spent years at Fort Hood while her husband served in Iraq, and her stories feel deeply authentic—to the point where one reviewer was left near tears. Never preachy or one-dimensional, Fallon instead creates sympathetic, flawed characters caught up in an impossible situation. Ultimately, critics hailed Fallon as a promising new voice who delivers “poignant, sometimes crude, and consistently compelling insights” (Boston Globe) into the lives of our servicemen and the families they l Siobhan Fallon spent years at Fort Hood while her husband served in Iraq, and her stories feel deeply authentic—to the point where one reviewer was left near tears. Never preachy or one-dimensional, Fallon instead creates sympathetic, flawed characters caught up in an impossible situation. Ultimately, critics hailed Fallon as a promising new voice who delivers “poignant, sometimes crude, and consistently compelling insights” (Boston Globe) into the lives of our servicemen and the families they leave behind. The lesson of this collection, according to the Washington Post: “When the men come home, the real battles begin. And if the war doesn’t kill you, the fiery reentry just might.” This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matt Fitz

    A sad but largely accurate perspective of the military families at the time i was written A bit dated as deployments, attitudes, and people have evolved in the decade plus since the author wrote this (mid-aughts) and we enter this 18th year of persistent conflict. While accurate in some regards, it lacked stories of resiliency and familial courage and instead looks primarily at spouses from the lens of our worst stereotypes. Be guarded. Be skeptical. The Army is both better and worse than the sto A sad but largely accurate perspective of the military families at the time i was written A bit dated as deployments, attitudes, and people have evolved in the decade plus since the author wrote this (mid-aughts) and we enter this 18th year of persistent conflict. While accurate in some regards, it lacked stories of resiliency and familial courage and instead looks primarily at spouses from the lens of our worst stereotypes. Be guarded. Be skeptical. The Army is both better and worse than the stories told here. I was at Fort Hood at the time this book came out. Ive been back since. I am glad i read this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Violet Althouse

    I love the way this author writes. She makes the most mundane aspects of her characters lives seem so vivid that it is easy to be sympathetic to all of them. There are no wasted words. Everything she writes counts for something. You don't get the feeling that she was adding filler anywhere. As for the subject matter: I cried several times as I was reading this book. Its hard to imagine what the lives of these people would be like without knowing someone who has gone through this personally. Fall I love the way this author writes. She makes the most mundane aspects of her characters lives seem so vivid that it is easy to be sympathetic to all of them. There are no wasted words. Everything she writes counts for something. You don't get the feeling that she was adding filler anywhere. As for the subject matter: I cried several times as I was reading this book. Its hard to imagine what the lives of these people would be like without knowing someone who has gone through this personally. Fallon writes in such a way that you feel invited into this world without having to pay the price. She does not come off as judgemental, instead she writes with empathy and affection. I read the book in 48 hours and I can't wait for her next work to come out.

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