Reading guide for 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

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Introduction

There is an army of women waiting for their men to return to Fort Hood, Texas. As Siobhan Fallon shows in this collection of loosely interconnected short stories, each woman deals with her husband's absence differently. One wife, in an attempt to avoid thinking about the risks her husband faces in Iraq, develops an unhealthy obsession with the secret life of her neighbor. Another woman's simple trip to the PX becomes unbearable when she pulls into her Gold Star parking space. And one woman's loneliness may lead to dire consequences when her husband arrives home. In gripping, no-nonsense stories that will leave you shaken, Siobhan Fallon allows you into a world tightly guarded by gates and wire. It is a place where men and women cling to the families they have created as the stress of war threatens to pull them apart.


Discussion Questions

  1. In the first story, "You Know When the Men Are Gone," why does the narrator develop such an obsession with her neighbor? While it turns out that Natalya is worthy of Meg's scrutiny, is it easier for Meg to be a nosy neighbor than for her to focus on the danger her husband faced overseas?

  2. Infidelity is a recurring theme in many of the stories. Did this surprise you?

  3. Most of the stories take place in Fort Hood. Why do you think "Camp Liberty" is included in the collection if it takes place in Iraq? Is it in keeping with the other stories?

  4. In "Camp Liberty," "Leave," and "The Last Stand," the main characters are men. Does that change the feel from the rest of the collection, which is primarily from a female point of view?

  5. Many of the stories in You Know When the Men Are Gone are about the relationships between men and women. How would these stories change if the protagonists were flipped? If, say, "Inside the Break" was told from Manny's point of view instead of Kailani's? Or if "Leave" followed Trish instead of Nick?

  6. In "The Last Stand," why does Helena sleep with Kit in the hotel room? Do you find her sympathetic?

  7. In "Remission," Ellen feels that she is pitied by the other wives because of her cancer, but considered lucky because her husband has not been deployed. Does either of these circumstances outweigh the other? Is there a sliding scale of "tragedy" and "luck" in the lives of the families in Fort Hood? In your own life?

  8. "Inside the Break" mentions pamphlets with such titles as "Roadmap to Reintegration," "What to Expect When Deployed Soldiers Return," and "Communicating with Your Spouse." Is it possible to sum up, in writing, the vast emotional landscape that families and soldiers experience upon the soldiers' return? Do you think Siobhan Fallon attempted to do that with this collection? If you think so, did she succeed?

  9. What do you think the husband does at the end of "Leave"?

  10. In "You've Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming," the sign refers to drunk driving, but do you think the author intends it as a metaphor for more?

  11. In the same story, toward the end, Fallon writes: "Their fate depended on whether Carla walked out of the room with the baby or stood next to her husband. 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." Do you agree with this take on marriage? Or do you think it's applicable only under extreme circumstances?

  12. Which is your favorite story, and why?

  13. Obviously the stories in You Know When the Men Are Gone are tied together by Fort Hood. What other themes do the stories share?


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of NAL. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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: Black Leopard, Red Wolf
    Black Leopard, Red Wolf
    by Marlon James
    If you are looking for an indulgent, escapist fantasy, Black Leopard, Red Wolf may not be for you. ...
  • Book Jacket: That Time I Loved You
    That Time I Loved You
    by Carianne Leung
    Carrianne Leung was a Toronto Book Award finalist for That Time I Loved You as well as for her debut...
  • Book Jacket: The Pianist from Syria
    The Pianist from Syria
    by Aeham Ahmad
    Aeham Ahmad became famous as the face of Syrian suffering when a photo of him playing piano in the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Smiling Man
    The Smiling Man
    by Joseph Knox
    Joseph Knox's latest turns on a simple premise: an unidentified and unidentifiable murdered man is ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A People's History of Heaven
    by Mathangi Subramanian

    A story of love and friendship, and fighting for the places we love.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    American Princess
    by Stephanie Marie Thornton

    Rated 4.9 stars by BookBrowse members - one of the highest scores of all time!
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao

An extraordinary and heart-rending tale of two girls with all the odds against them.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Summer Country

Win up to 12 copies to share with friends or your book club!

A sweeping epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D T T! Full S A!

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 the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.