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

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...
  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

"Electrifying . . . as beautiful and as icy as the Minnesota woods where it's set."
—NPR

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg

    An emotionally powerful novel from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist

Enter

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

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.