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.
Three a.m. and breaking into the house on Cheyenne
Trail was even easier than Chief Warrant Officer Nick
Cash thought it would be. There were no sounds from above,
no lights throwing shadows, no floorboards whining, no water
running or the snicker of late-night TV laugh tracks. The
basement window, his point of entry, was open. The screws
were rusted, but Nick had come prepared with his Gerber
knife and WD-40; got the screws and the window out in five
minutes flat. He stretched onto his stomach in the dew-wet
grass and inched his legs through the opening, then pushed
his torso backward until his toes grazed the cardboard boxes
in the basement below, full of old shoes and college textbooks,
which held his weight.
He had planned this mission the way the army would expect him to, the way only a soldier or a hunter or a neurotic could, considering every detail that ordinary people didn't even think about. He mapped out the route, calculating the minutes it would...
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).
Full Review (682 words).
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 ...
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