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.
For many years, Tim O'Brien's collection of short stories, The Things They Carried, has been required reading for those who want to really understand the human cost of the Vietnam War. In You Know When the Men Are Gone, Siobhan Fallon has done the same thing for our current conflict, showing readers the human faces and hidden dramas of war. (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
New York Times
Siobhan Fallon tells gripping, straight-up, no-nonsense stories about American soldiers and their families. It's clear from her tender yet tough-minded first book, You Know When the Men Are Gone, that she knows this world very well.
A haunting collection likely to inform and move many readers, whether they are familiar with the intricacies of military life or not. Though the everyday experience of the women waiting for their husbands to come home may be a sense of muted life, these stories pulse with the reality of combat and its domestic repercussions.
Fallon reveals the mostly hidden world of life on base for military families, and offers a powerful, unsentimental portrait of America at war.
Starred Review. Significant both as war stories and love stories, this collection certifies Fallon as an indisputable talent.
Excellent; even readers who do not usually read short stories should seek out this book.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Elizabeth Interest-rich vignettes 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... Read More
Rated of 5
by mainlinebooker Tore at my heartstrings This is a series of loosely connected short stories all dealing with the emotional issues of being the partner or serviceman who has been deployed in war. Normally, I am not a fan of short stories but the loosely interconnected weave of these men... Read More
If you've never been on a military base, you might be surprised, upon reading You Know When the Men Are Gone, at just how extensive Fort Hood, Texas, is. It's a small city unto itself, complete with all the services and conveniences that mean its residents never really have to leave if they don't want to. As Siobhan Fallon illustrates in her novel, different inhabitants have different reasons for embracing Fort Hood's insularity - or rejecting it.
Here are some quick facts about Fort Hood, the place Siobhan Fallon's characters call home, whether they like it or not:
Area: 340 square miles (by comparison, Manhattan Island is 23 square miles)
Date Permanently Established: 1951
Nearest Town: Killeen, TX
Average High Temperature: 94oF (summer); 49oF (winter)
Armored Divisions: 1st Cavalry, 1st Army Division West
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