Summary and book reviews of You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

You Know When the Men Are Gone

by Siobhan Fallon

You Know When the Men Are Gone
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2011, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2012, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

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

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.

Leave

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...

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 ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (476 words).

Media Reviews

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.

Boston Globe

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.

Kirkus Reviews

Fallon reveals the mostly hidden world of life on base for military families, and offers a powerful, unsentimental portrait of America at war.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Significant both as war stories and love stories, this collection certifies Fallon as an indisputable talent.

Library Journal

Excellent; even readers who do not usually read short stories should seek out this book.

Reader Reviews

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 and...   Read More

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 it...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Fort Hood

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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