BookBrowse Reviews You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

You Know When the Men Are Gone

by Siobhan Fallon

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon X
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2011, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2012, 240 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Tim O'Brien, an unforgettable collection of interconnected short stories

In You Know When the Men Are Gone, debut author Siobhan Fallon vividly shows readers the human cost of the current conflict in Iraq, both on the front lines and, just as poignantly, on the home front. Fallon, who lived at Fort Hood while her husband completed two tours of duty, writes with authority and authentic emotion about the challenges and conflicts facing soldiers and the families they leave behind.

In the title story, Meg, a soldier's wife who has resisted pressure to have children because she dreads the thought of raising babies alone while her husband is deployed, becomes fixated on her new next-door neighbor, a beautiful Serbian immigrant whose troubling personal history and cavalier attitude toward parenting both frighten and fascinate Meg.

In "Camp Liberty," Sergeant David Mogeson, a former investment banker who joined up after 9/11, finds himself torn between the easy luxury and leisure he left behind and the more intense life he's found in Iraq. Both offer their own temptations, and their own threats. In "The Last Stand," soldier Kit Murphy returns home injured but hopeful—until his young wife delivers an unpleasant surprise.

Throughout this collection of loosely interwoven stories, the name of one officer—Sergeant Schaeffer—arises repeatedly. Readers know little about this man or his family, other than that he died in an IED explosion and, intentionally or accidentally, saved the life of one of his men, Kit Murphy. The repeated invocation of Sergeant Schaeffer's name becomes incredibly powerful when, in the collection's final story, we finally meet the man's widow, Josie. Josie is coming to terms with being the widow of a fallen hero, with the appreciative hugs and pitying glances of strangers, with her own ambivalence about army life. When Kit Murphy pays her a visit, Josie— in a simple but palpably desperate gesture— reaches out to him for one more glimpse of her husband as she remembers him best, before all her memories of him become abstractions.

Given the subject matter and the currency of Siobhan Fallon's debut story collection, it would have been easy for her stories to lapse into melodrama or sentimentality. Instead, Fallon's writing displays masterful restraint, trusting her characters' all-too-believable stories of infidelity and temptation, of mistrust and hope to speak for themselves. And speak they do, in a way most civilians will find shocking and moving simultaneously. 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.

Useful to note: Siobhan is an Irish form of Joan, and is pronounced Sh-vawn

Reviewed by Norah Piehl

This review was originally published in February 2011, and has been updated for the January 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Fort Hood

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Word Is Murder
    The Word Is Murder
    by Anthony Horowitz
    A wealthy widow enters a London funeral home to make arrangements for her own funeral. Six hours ...
  • Book Jacket: Call Me American
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about a Palestinian family caught between present and past.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.