Siobhan Fallon tells gripping, straight-up, no-nonsense stories about American soldiers and their families…in this brief, tight collectionand there's not a loser in the bunch…
The New York Times
…terrific and terrifically illuminating…The highest praise I can give this bookas a critic and a soldier's wifeis 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
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.)
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.
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.
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...
“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.”
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.
From the Publisher
"Significant both as war stories and love stories, this collection certifies Fallon as an indisputable talent." Publishers Weekly Starred Review
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)
“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.”
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
Library Journal - Library Journal Audio
In this debut collection of eight loosely interconnected tales, author Fallon (www.siobhanfallon.com), who lived at Fort Hood, TX, while her husband served two tours of duty in Iraq, seizes the uncertainty, fear, and tedium that military wives as well as their husbands face. From a soldier returning home to news that his wife wants a divorce to a wife trying to cope with her husband's death by a roadside bomb in Iraq, Fallon's graceful, starkly unflinching stories capture the private dramas of the military that rarely reach the press. Actress/Audie Award nominee Cassandra Campbell narrates in a clear voice that emphasizes each character's individuality. Strongly recommended for listeners seeking an inside look at military life as well as for anyone interested in well-written, engaging stories. [The Amy Einhorn: Putnam hc also received a starred review, LJ 11/15/10.—Ed.]—Nancy Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
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.