You Know When the Men Are Gone

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Through fiction of dazzling skill and astonishing emotional force, Siobhan Fallon welcomes readers into the American army base at Fort Hood, Texas, where U.S. soldiers prepare to fight, and where their families are left to cope after the men are gone. They'll meet a wife who discovers unsettling secrets when she hacks into her husband's email, and a teenager who disappears as her mother fights cancer. There is the foreign born wife who has tongues wagging over her late hours, and the military intelligence officer...

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You Know When the Men Are Gone

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Overview

Through fiction of dazzling skill and astonishing emotional force, Siobhan Fallon welcomes readers into the American army base at Fort Hood, Texas, where U.S. soldiers prepare to fight, and where their families are left to cope after the men are gone. They'll meet a wife who discovers unsettling secrets when she hacks into her husband's email, and a teenager who disappears as her mother fights cancer. There is the foreign born wife who has tongues wagging over her late hours, and the military intelligence officer who plans a covert mission against his own home.

Powerful, singular, and unforgettable, these stories will resonate deeply with readers and mark the debut of a new talent of tremendous note.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

That war stories only tell half the story has become a commonplace, but this debut collection of short stories by the wife of an Iraq conflict veteran puts that truism in stark new light. These interconnected tales show Fort Hood wives and their distant mates as they suffer through wars on different continents. Anxieties mount with every Baghdad casualty bulletin, but even the return from battle tours is no guarantee that before equals after: "You Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming" is the challenge laid down in the title of the book's penultimate story. You Know When the Men Are Gone has always drawn comparisons to the work of Raymond Carver and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Publishers Weekly
The crucial role of military wives becomes clear in Fallon's powerful, resonant debut collection, where the women are linked by absence and a pervading fear that they'll become war widows. In the title story, a war bride from Serbia finds she can't cope with the loneliness and her outsider status, and chooses her own way out. The wife in "Inside the Break" realizes that she can't confront her husband's probable infidelity with a female soldier in Iraq; as in other stories, there's a gap between what she can imagine and what she can bear to know. In "Remission," a cancer patient waiting on the results of a crucial test is devastated by the behavior of her teenage daughter, and while the trials of adolescence are universal, this story is particularized by the unique tensions between military parents and children. One of the strongest stories, "You Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming," attests to the chasm separating men who can't speak about the atrocities they've experienced and their wives, who've lived with their own terrible burdens. Fallon writes with both grit and grace: her depiction of military life is enlivened by telling details, from the early morning sound of boots stomping down the stairs to the large sign that tallies automobile fatalities of troops returned from Iraq. Significant both as war stories and love stories, this collection certifies Fallon as an indisputable talent. (Jan.)
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. The reader need not look at Ms. Fallon's biography to guess that she, like her book's characters, has spent time living in Fort Hood, Tex., watching the effects of soldiers' leave-takings and homecomings on men and the wives they leave behind...
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.”
O Magazine
Fort Hood, Texas, is the largest military installation in the free world- 340 square miles, as Siobhan Fallon notes in her fascinating YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE (Amy Einhorn/Putnam). Fort Hood also functions as a small town; everyone in these eight interconnected tales knows everyone else’s business- or tries to. Neighbors read ordinary objects like tea leaves: Contents of a shopping cart may foretell child neglect, an unclaimed pickup truck portends marital discord, a freshly mown lawn whispers of cancer. Mostly, though, the women wait for their husbands to come home and provide an intimacy that never arrives. Fallon, the wife of an officer, writes with understatement about the divide between those who go and those who stay: “Then, in the dark, he almost told her about Sergeant Schaeffer, how his body had pinned Kit down, his arms outstretched over him like some Old Testament angel. How he could smell Schaeffer burning and he thought it was his own flesh.” Whether or not characters agree to the unwritten pact of secrecy between soldier and civilian, war marks them as surely as medals on a uniform. --(Bethanne Patrick)
Los Angeles Times
Fallon, who earned an MFA in writing from the New School in New York, gives a compassionate yet unflinching portrait of the modern-day home front. She knows the world well, having spent two of her husband's deployments among the waiting wives. In "You Know When the Men Are Gone," she reminds us of the outsized burden our military families carry, that the overseas casualty counts carried in newscasts can never tell the whole truth.--(De Turenne)
Denver Post
“Each of Fallon’s stories leaves the reader wanting more . . . You Know When the Men are Gone is compulsively readable and memorable, stories of unsung courage displayed by characters hard to forget.”
San Francisco Chronicle
....surely marks the beginning of a major career . . . [Fallon] has a sharp, clean, prose style; a gift for telling urgent, important stories; and an eye for the kind of odd, revelatory detail that may seem ordinary if you have spent time on military bases but that civilians rarely encounter.
Bookreporter.com
Fallon has produced a phenomenal collection that should hit the book club circuit soon and will be considered good reference for anyone looking for more insight into and understanding of today's modern Army wife/family.
New York Journal of Books
You Know When the Men Are Gone is the explosive sort of literary triumph that appears only every few years. As such, it should not be missed.
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.
Library Journal
Fallon's accomplished debut short story collection offers a glimpse into a world few civilians will ever experience: Fort Hood, TX. Fort Hood is a place where husbands and fathers pack their gear and leave for deployments of a year or longer. Left behind are the families, and each of the eight stories describes a different spouse or family coping with such a prolonged absence. The wife and mother with breast cancer, the teenage bride, the young mother, the Serbian wife who speaks little English—each deals with the stress and loneliness of her husband's deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan in her own way. Some isolate themselves, choosing to live off base or move back in with their families. Others embrace the company and support of other army wives and attend Family Readiness Group meetings. This might be a work of fiction, but Fallon's work is remarkably real, and each story's characters immediately grip the reader. VERDICT Excellent; even readers who do not usually read short stories should seek out this book.—Shaunna Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA
Kirkus Reviews

In an accomplished debut story collection, Fallon lays bare the lonely lives of military families when the men go to war.

In these eight loosely connected tales, the families of Fort Hood, Texas, wait for their men to come home. That waiting, filled with anxiety, boredom and sometimes resentment, creates a Godot-like existence, in which real life begins only when a soldier's deployment ends. In the title story, young Meg, her husband in Iraq, becomes obsessed with her neighbor Natalya, a glamorous Serbian with little English and two babies, doubly isolated in Fort Hood. Meg presses her ear to their shared wall and eventually hears the voice of a strange man. In "The Last Stand," a soldier returns from Iraq permanently injured, to a wife tired of the strains of army life. She brings him to a hotel and then buys him breakfast before notifying him of their imminent divorce, their marriage a casualty of the war. In "Leave," Officer Nick Cash suspects his wife is cheating on him. On his scheduled leave home from Iraq, he tells his wife he has to stay at the front, but then secretly returns to Fort Hood, breaks into the basement of his own house and hides there for a week, waiting for the truth with a knife in his hand. In "Camp Liberty," the only story to take place largely in Iraq, David Mogeson, an investment banker who joined up after 9/11, befriends Raneen, a female interpreter. Back home on leave, he is bored by his longtime girlfriend and overwhelmed by a lifestyle of privilege, but when he returns to Iraq (and fantasies of building something with Raneen), he discovers she's been kidnapped, an all-too-common fate for interpreters. Fallon reveals the mostly hidden world of life on base for military families, and offers a powerful, unsentimental portrait of America at war.

A fresh look at the Iraq war as it plays out on the domestic front.

Janet Maslin
Siobhan Fallon tells gripping, straight-up, no-nonsense stories about American soldiers and their families…in this brief, tight collection—and there's not a loser in the bunch…
—The New York Times
Lily Burana
…terrific and terrifically illuminating…The highest praise I can give this book—as a critic and a soldier's wife—is that it's so achingly authentic that I had to put it down and walk away at least a dozen times. At one point, I stuffed it under the love seat cushions. If Fallon ever expands her talents into a novel, I may have to hide in the closet for a month. Challenging as the subject matter may be, this is a brisk read. Fallon's sentences are fleet and trim. Her near-journalistic austerity magnifies the dizzying impact of the content…
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"Significant both as war stories and love stories, this collection certifies Fallon as an indisputable talent." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review
The Barnes & Noble Review

In the eight wrenching, compassionate tales that make up Siobhan Fallon's You Know When the Men Are Gone, we get the stories that it seems we've been waiting for through America's decade at war. The military wives of Fort Hood, Texas -- seen here in all of their raw anxiety and gritty resourcefulness -- represent a handful of the million-plus civilian families who have borne the brunt of the strain on the home front since 2001.

Fallon, who lived at Fort Hood while her Army major husband served two tours of duty in Iraq, nails the details of life on base after the 18,000 soldiers in the First Cavalry Division are deployed, and the world dominated by camouflage uniforms shifts to one of "brightly colored baby carriages and diaper bags, Mommy & Me meetings…women on pastel blankets lounging on the parade field and sharing cinnamon rolls."

"You learn too much," she writes in the title story, hearing neighbors gargling, showering, and crying themselves to sleep through the thin walls. This unwelcome knowledge blooms in the pervasive quiet that the absent soldiers leave behind them: "No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, ...without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life."

Meg, this story's central character, scans the Internet for news of her husband's infantry battalion each morning, meets weekly with her Family Readiness Group -- women suddenly thrown together in times of duress, "all of them bereft and left behind in this dry expanse of central Texas" -- and copes with loneliness. She watches with dismay as her new neighbor, Natalya Torres, a Serbian woman who met her husband when she was cutting hair at a base in Kosovo, leaves her twin toddlers sleeping, dresses up and goes out on the town once a week, a routine that becomes a miniature scandal in this close-knit world.

Infidelity is also the hinge of "Leave." Chief Warrant Officer Nick Cash tells his wife he's not coming home on a scheduled leave, maps out a surveillance mission, breaks into his own house, and camps in the basement, waiting to find out if a friend's tip that his wife is seeing another man is true. In one of the many artful moments that link these stories, Nick recalls Staff Sergeant Torres (Natalya's husband) going ballistic when a private has a radio blasting "Love the One You're With." The usually laid-back Torres stomps the radio to smithereens.

While worrying about a sexy email a woman soldier has sent her husband in "Inside the Break," Lailani notes an ominous silence on base -- three days with not one wife in the battalion receiving a call or email from her husband. This "comms blackout," is followed by a telephone tree phone call: "Alpha Company got hit. Sergeant Schaeffer died."

Several stories reverberate with the repercussions of this attack. Specialist Kit Murphy, a survivor with a ruined foot, flies home with a group of fellow battered soldiers, all wondering if their wives would be waiting, and, if they were, "how long would they stick around when they saw the burn scars, the casts, the missing bits and pieces that no amount of Star Wars metal limbs could make up for." And the widow of the sergeant killed in the attack shudders as she pulls into the empty "Gold Star Family" parking space in front of the commissary. "Family members received a few special privileges like this lousy parking space, but that meant the pity rising from the asphalt singed hotter than any Texas sun."

You Know When the Men Are Gone is an eloquent, unflinching, and beautifully nuanced portrait of these spouses, transformed by combat as profoundly as if they'd boarded the transports themselves.

--Jane Ciabattari

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399157202
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/20/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Siobhan Fallon

Siobhan Fallon lived at Fort Hood for three years while her husband, a majorin the Army, was deployed to Iraq for two tours of duty. She earned her MFA at the New School in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 104 )
Rating Distribution

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(35)

4 Star

(26)

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(24)

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(6)

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(13)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 104 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 14, 2010

    Powerful, poignant, lovely

    In You Know When the Men Are Gone, Siobhan Fallon writes with grace and intelligence about the army wives at Fort Hood who are waiting for their men to return from Iraq. Fallon follows the lives of women with children, women with cancer, women who can't bear another night of sleeping alone between flypaper walls. Some of Fallon's women find courage in the others left behind, some take comfort in a past without war -- in their memories, their Hawaii's, their first true loves. All have a sense that real life stops the moment the men board the busses and leave Fort Hood. You Know When the Men Are Gone is a poignant debut, written with the kind of love and detailed accuracy that can only come from living behind the barbed wire at Fort Hood, as Siobhan Fallon has. You'll laugh with her characters and you'll cry with them. Like them, you'll try to add up what it's all worth. You Know When the Men Are Gone is funny, sad, wise, and essential. Turn off the news and pick up this book. You won't be disappointed.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2010

    Devastatingly beautiful.

    You Know When the Men Are Gone is a stunning debut. Fallon's prose is spare and clean and beautiful, but it is her characters that will leave you breathless. They are all so alive and real, different in many ways, but strung together by a bright thread of common experience. This is a devastating book, and beautiful. Devastatingly beautiful.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2011

    An Amazing Book!

    This is an incredible work of fiction. Every story in this collection is tightly wrought, emotionally compelling, and beautifully written. I was sucked in early by "You Know When the Men are Gone," and was deeply moved by both "Camp Liberty," and "Gold Star." The collection functions almost as a novel, as more is revealed about the characters and what the families experienced throughout the collection as the author moves through the length of the deployment. The author writes with insight and compassion, and I would highly recommend this book to either a military or non-military audience: it is an amazing look into the challenges that military families face, as well as a study of human character.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A window into the lives of military families

    You Know When The Men Are Gone is a beautifully written slender volume of short stories centering around the wives of deployed soldiers based at Ft. Hood, Texas. The stories are loosely related involving different families and different situations, but with a common thread running through each of them that highlights the emotional drain of having a spouse deployed in Iraq and away for a year. ~~~~~~~~ Sometimes depressing, sometimes sad and occasionally humorous, all are written with the compassion and knowledge of someone who has been there. These are not war stories; there is no political agenda. It is a window into the lives of our military families, opened for a brief moment, giving us a glimpse of their world. Some have children, some do not, others are newly wed and barely know each other while others know each other only too well. All are moving tales and all will make you think. ~~~~~~~~ I read this book quickly and then I wanted more. The author has a wonderful writing style with smoothly flowing words and quickly developed characters. It was easy to feel their emotions: loneliness, pain, obsession, suspicion, distrust. Many of the stories deal with infidelity and how difficult it is to be separated from a spouse. ~~~~~~~~ Most of the stories are told from the point of view of the wives. Several are told by the men. Leave is one of the stories told by a husband who is suspicious that his wife is cheating on him. He plots and plans a way to find out the truth and carries his plan out as if it were a military mission. I found this one to be particularly haunting and powerful and am still thinking about it now. He gets his answers but we are left to wonder what he does with the information. ~~~~~~~~ This is a wonderful book, a compelling look into the personal relationships of the men and women in the military, and I highly recommend it. ~~~ Leslie ~~ Under My Apple Tree

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A privileged glimpse at the heart of the American military experience

    Ordinarily, I veer away from short story collections because it's easy to abandon them after one or two stories are resolved. After hearing Fallon's interview on Fresh Air, however, I knew this would be a must-read. If I have any criticism, it's that the wives as a whole are elevated in terms of educational background. For that matter, though, so are many of their husbands. Each story crafts a unique heartbreak for the reader. Each story presents a previously unexamined perspective on military life. Each story is well-written and literary. Along with The Goon Squad, this will be one of my frequently recommended books of 2011.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2011

    Negative & Unrealistic

    As a military spouse with 18+ years experience and more than a few deployments under my belt, I was disappointed. I picked up this book in hopes that I would identify with the characters and their stories - I couldn't have been more wrong. This author makes every effort to focus on the ridiculously negative aspects of military deployments. If you're looking for an HONEST look into the lives of a military members and their spouses - look elsewhere.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2011

    Lousy sample

    This might be a great book, but I couldn't say- the sample was only 14 pages long, and 13 of those pages were the title/content/etc. pages. I was looking forward to sampling at least the first story in this collection and had to settle for just two paragraphs. Next time, B&N, please give me a little more to work with.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2011

    Get your details right.

    I have been stationed at fort hood for 10 years now and not once have I seen a sign that said "you survived the war, now survive the homecoming " it says now service the highways. If the author gets this fact wrong in just the review what else will they blow out of perspective for a quick buck. Our pain should not be your paycheck.

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2011

    Eye opener for a liberal-an important book for those of all persuasions

    This book is like nothing I've read before. I learned that I do not know nearly enough about military life and the sacrifices these soldiers and families make. The families suffer far more than separation. The soldiers and their families cannot possibly pick up where they left off. Things change; people change. The book is beautifully written with crisp, tight prose-not a superfluous word. The stories are so real and the characters are well developed. "You Know When the Men are Gone" is unlike any short story collection I have read in the way that characters reappear and the characters' lives .

    The first time I went to the ballet, I felt sick to my stomach because it was so beautiful and something totally new and it moved me so much; I felt that way reading "You Know When the Men are Gone."

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2011

    Should be required reading for decision makers in Washington

    As I closed the book after reading the last story in You Know When the Men Are Gone, I couldn't help thinking that you also know when an important new talent has emerged on the literary scene. Because Siobhan Fallon simply blew me away with these eight interrelated pieces which detail with a near surgical precision exactly what it is like - how it feels - to be part of the all-volunteer army that continues to fight our so-called "war on terror" thousands of miles away on the other side of our ever-shrinking planet.

    Every story in this jewel-like collection contains at least one moment - and often more - which will bring the hot sting of unshed tears to your eyes, if indeed you succeed in containing those tears. Because Fallon has succeeded in showing you another side of the wars, the hidden costs on the home front, which test, stretch, and often destroy military families. And these are young families, obviously - men and women, many barely out of their teens, who should be enjoying each other and their young children and babies. Instead they are faced with long and lonely separations, followed by reunions ruined by the unexplainable depressions, black rages and abberant behavior that are the unmistakable markers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    While reading Fallon's stories I kept trying to think of other books I might have read which deal with the wives' stories. All that came to mind was the currently-running TV series, Army Wives, which my wife and I watch every week. I know it is based on a book, but we have not read it. Then I thought of a book from another war, Tim Farrington's moving and beautiful 2005 novel, Lizzie's War, which utilized shifting viewpoints, moving back and forth between the marine combatant in the Vietnam jungle and his wife and children back home in the States. Fallon's book easily equals that accomplishment.

    Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge also came to mind, mostly because that novel too is rendered as a group of interrelated stories with the title character as the unifying element. In Fallon's book what unites the stories is not a single character, but a much larger entity, the army. And also, of course, the war, with its continuing deployments and separations, which eat away at the foundations of all those still-new, young and vulnerable marriages and relationships. Strout's book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I have a feeling that Fallon's book will also win its share of prizes.

    Finally, I think You Know When the Men Are Gone should become required reading for the decision makers in Washington, from the President and Secretary of Defense all the way on down the chain of command, both civilian and military. It's probably naive of me to think this, but perhaps, having read these stories of heartbreak and misery, they would not be so quick to vote for war. It should also be read by every active duty soldier - in all branches of service. It would promote a better understanding of the lot of the women they leave behind every time they deploy. I guess I'm saying that the book deserves an extremely wide audience, because this slim volume of stories could - should - reverberate in our country for years to come. I give this book my unqualified and highest recommendation. - Tim Bazzett, author of the memoirs SOLDIER BOY: AT PLAY IN THE ASA and BOOKLOVER

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2012

    I don't read very often, but this was one book that I couldn't p

    I don't read very often, but this was one book that I couldn't put down. I am a military spouse, one who lived in Ft. Hood, TX myself and could relate to some of these stories. I wish I could find a book similar to this to read. For me not to put a book down, when it can take me months or years to read one for I lose interest, put it down, and then pick it up gosh nows how long after that means something. Absolutely fabulous book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2012

    The stories in this book tell a story of military life often ove

    The stories in this book tell a story of military life often overlooked and not understood by most Americans. The author does a good job of writing that captures your imagination. But she leaves unfinished endings. This is not a criticism. It is just something a future reader should be aware of and it seems to match life a lot better than most stories that carry you through to an unsatisfying conclusion. Yes, most of the stories lead you towards an unhappy conclusion but, as a veteran, I found I could relate to many of the scenes she wrote about.

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  • Posted March 18, 2012

    I'll never see warfare the same way again!

    There are things that we all, as Americans, should know. Our history, our government, and our heritage as the freest, fairest, strongest, nation in the history of mankind would seem to be of paramount importance to any citizen's appreciation of the grand experiment that we call, the United States of America. I, for one, have always held the blood which has watered the "Tree of Freedom" for nearly two and a half centuries as sacrosanct. Yet, I must confess that in over fifty years of life, I have never fully considered the cost of freedom to the families of the men and women who protect that which we so easily take for granted.

    Siobhan Fallon speaks of this quiet cost of liberty from firsthand experience. To my knowledge, she has never shed blood, nor taken life in defense of our nation, yet she, like countless others, has contributed mightily to the cause of freedom. Reading YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE was, for me, an advanced civics lesson. It is a compelling glimpse into the lives of the unsung heroes of every war since the American Revolution, the wives and children of the American combat soldier.

    To the student of military history, war is about tactics and strategy, courage under fire and relentless patience with unlivable conditions. It is easy to empathize with the tens of thousands of young lives forever altered by the last decade of war in the Middle East. Only a soulless man could fail to dry a tear at the site of wounded young soldiers devastated by war. Yet, how hard it is, to adequately consider the impact of warfare on the immediate families of our warriors.

    Ms. Fallon makes deft use of fiction to bring her case to the reader. Using eight short stories, the author weaves her way through a myriad of pain, joy, glory and peace. I have no doubt that her stories are based in reality, for they are far too dynamic to be pure fiction. The heroes aren't just heroic, the villains aren't always evil. What the characters are, above all, is eminently human. And this, in my opinion, is the greatest strength of her work. Gone are the textbook perceptions of one dimensional wives at home and soldiers abroad. Her characters are complex and authentic. Quietly seething beneath the each of the stories, is the timeless frustration with the futility of war. It infects each story uniquely, some times to the positive, others to the negative and often, both. I found it interesting that each story was, in itself, a unique lesson. Ms. Fallon makes excellent use of the ebb and flow of the drama of war, building synergy with each chapter, one upon the other, to draw the reader into her world. By the end of the book she has educated her reader and accomplished her purpose, deep empathy with the families of men at war.

    The stories are fast moving and emotional. The writing is excellent; fluid, forceful, and at times poetic. Above all the book, while entertaining, is highly educational. I will never again look at soldiers in the same way. YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE has taught me a profound lesson. Battles are not fought by mere planes, tanks and ships. They are not won by strategy and tactics alone. Siobhan Fallon has taught me that wars are fought by families, families that may well feel the effects of their efforts for a lifetime.

    It is a lesson that I dare not forget, and for that, I thank her. I highly recommend this book to all, and most especially those of us who, heretofore, actually thought we understood war!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2011

    Haunting

    The characters in this series of short stories stayed with me. Fallon manages to weave together the different men and their wives that are stationed at Ft. Hood, manages to show the fallout from a single attack. Each story stands on its own, but taken together, this book is extremely powerful.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Love & Honour

    This debut novel gives an honest glimpse into the possible lives and situations of military families. Author Siobhan Fallon knows, as she is a military wife. Her book, You Know When the Men Are Gone is based on her experiences living in Fort Hood, Texas, while her husband, an Army Major served two tours of duty in Iraq.


    This book is a collection of stories involving the lives of those left behind, here at home, while their loved ones are gone off to war. We see what their spouses, families, do in their absence, including how, and with whom, they spend their time. We experience the seeming holding pattern they feel they are in.


    Loneliness is the obvious common thread in these stories. We see how the women come together to keep each other busy, to pick up the slack left in time's void. They help each other in keeping memories of spouses active with meetings, making group care packages, supporting the spouses gone to war, and each other left at home.


    While this is a novel, it is based on the reality of the lives of our own military families. We see how those gone to war are affected and need our support, our care. Siobhan Fallon makes us think of those left here, among us. They are in need of our support and care

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    eclectic mix of short stories

    I want to start off this review by saying I grew up an Air Force brat and was also at one time an Air Force wife. The first paragraph of this book grabbed me immediately with its spot on description of base housing. This book is made up of short stories about how the families cope when their men go off to war. And how they cope when they do or don't come home.

    A very eclectic mix of short stories that were loosely intersected and very good but all seemed to end suddenly and you were left to figure out how their (the characters) stories end. However this book will pull you in and won't let you go, with each story telling you a different side of the lives of our servicemen and their families, and was very true to life.


    I loved the author notes at the end; they were very meaningful to me. This would have been 5 stars but for the stories having abrupt endings.

    4 Stars

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2012

    The stories I did love tended to be the ones I could most identi

    The stories I did love tended to be the ones I could most identify with, and those I didn't like seemed to be the ones that stretched things the furthest. Also, one of the things I tend not to like about short stories is their lack of an ending or closure - they can often times feel incomplete to me. This was the case in this book. In some of the stories, not having an ending worked. It felt realistic to the "life goes on" aspect of life, the "this was a resolution for today, but who knows what will happen tomorrow" way things go. "Remission" and "You Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming" are both examples of that kind of story for me, and "Remission" was probably my favorite story of the book, and the one that drew the most emotion from me. In other stories, the lack of ending seemed almost a cop-out, like the author either didn't know how to end the story, or knew how it had to end, or would have ended in real life, but was afraid to put it into writing that way. The first story, "You Know When the Men Are Gone", and "Leave" were both disappointments for me in that respect.

    One of the major issues in military life is, indeed, the marital strain that occurs, and I felt for the most part, the author captures this quite well. Adultery and cheating occur frequently on both sides and, as a result of its frequency, those who may not actively participate in it generally do have a fear or paranoia that their significant other will. Even if this fear is kept in check for the most part, the smallest thing can set it off, and jealousy, rage, & suspicion will bubble up to the surface. The general stress and strain of being separated for so long, and of having such an extended, intense experience that the other person can't share in, is also something that can tear a relationship apart and that the author captures well. The wall of things left unsaid between military couples is immense and can seem like insurmountable obstacles at times.

    The general ambience of the base is also something that the author captured well, although, I will say, the absence of men did not seem as pronounced to me during my time there, as the author represented it. Yes, there did seem to be a greater ratio of women to men then you might get in the civilian world, but there wasn't a complete absence of men felt, and even once the majority of the troops had returned, and I went back to visit, there didn't seem to be a sense of that many more men, just more that the scales had tipped back into balance between men and women again. The camaraderie that can develop between military spouses, combined with the distances that can still be maintained among those groups is very true to life as well. One of the things that did bother me about the book was an overall sense of helplessness or hopelessness. It was very much a downer to me, and few, if any of the stories had what I would consider a positive experience. And, as much as life, especially military life, can be negative and hard, there really are hope and happy endings to be found, and I just wish the author could have included a little bit more that.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2012

    Pretty good!

    Not a bad grouping of short stories. I tired of reading about life "on base" quickly, but the situations were very believeable and interesting. I would recommend.

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  • Posted February 6, 2012

    Great stories, and great writing from the heart of life, love, peace, and war!

    In her wonderful breakout short story collection You Know When the Men Are Gone, Siobhan Fallon writes with the kind of quiet power that gives witness to our humanity. She let's us look deeply into the human soul, our own soul and the soul of others, by taking us down into the desolation of the beloved families of our military personnel and the complexity, delusion, hope, and courage that accompanies people caught in the grip of interior and collective war. With lines like these, we are led into our own deep vulnerability and toward our own graceful sense of what is sensible and what is necessary with regard to love and power at the foundation of life: "This woman's beauty was an affront... she seemed to have stepped out of a Gustav Klimt painting... her nails filed into perfect ovals... [Meg] wondered if Natalya cried for her husband the way Meg cried for Jeremy, or if she cried for something, or someone, else." In another multi-layered movement, the three-part strand of stories that follows Specialist Kit Murphy and his wife Helena alongside Josie and her husband Sergeant Eddie Schaeffer is an immaculate triptych of grief and loss, abandon, loyalty and love. Fallon's prose is measured and cadenced, gorgeous in its rhythms and music, devastating in its human understanding, and finally uplifting with regard to the manner in which we conduct our most intimate discernments. This book gives witness to the undertow and interwoven beauty of the feminine and the masculine. You Know When the Men Are Gone is destined to be a classic of war literature, a book that endures because in its echo and response in the heart of love itself, Fallon's artistry elegantly leads the nation through the complexity and chaos of the personal wars we face everyday in our own homes.

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  • Posted November 24, 2011

    Awesome!

    I loved this book. I thought it was very well written and interesting. Each story kept me intrigued. I could not put it down. The only reason I give this book four stars is because it was all short stories! I did not realize that when I first got the book so I was disappointed because there were some stories where I wanted a continuation. Overall, this book was well worth the read and helped me to gain an insight to the lives of military families.

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