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You Know When the Men Are Gone Hardcover – January 20, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding, Refresh, Refresh, and The Language of Elk
"What a fascinating, rare glimpse into the domesticity of war. This is a wonderful debut. Each beautifully rendered story is braced with intelligence and wisdom."
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Top customer reviews
I understand where they were coming from but don't agree. The polish earned from an MFA is just that - polish and skill. So it's not a negative unless education and training are somehow considered a bad thing.
I was a soldier, and almost none of Fallon's fictional narratives rang falsely or contrived. If they didn't happen to me, they happened to someone I knew. The crummy homecomings, the stress, the fear and frustration. I understand that many readers would want stories that focus on the positive, but at least from my point of view, I'm not emotionally affected by "positive" stories. I don't read fiction for the happy ending, because it usually won't make me feel anything special. These are stories about men at war and women at home, and if they aren't heartbreaking, I'm not sure what the point would be.
A couple of the stories didn't ring false, but weren't as strong as others. A couple do end very abruptly, and while I don't expect to have my hand held, I do prefer a solid conclusion. But, short stories don't always exist to give the reader a complete conclusion - they exist as moments of time.
But, any small complaints aside, I really liked these stories. She presented fully-realized characters who came across as real people living believable representations of events. I cared about the characters, and I liked how Fallon connected the stories together with their repeated appearances across the stories. Sometimes it was just a subtle repetition of a name; other characters were equally pivotal in multiple stories, but in different ways.
It would be a shame if concerns about the "negative" storylines steered readers away - and I'm not sure Fallon's fellow Army wives or other veterans are the best audience anyway. They don't really need Fallon's made-up stories about what they lived through.
But after 10 years of war, there's value here to NON-military readers. Most of the stories are heartbreaking and sad, but that's what happens when you're 21 and you get your foot blown off, and then your wife leaves you. It isn't happy. It is sad. And guess what - it happens, and not that rarely.
So, fictionally, this is as close as most readers will come to those kind of hard days, but at least it will open that window a tiny bit.
I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories. I was born and raised in a city that houses the largest Army installation in the United States. The base itself is insular, and it wasn't until my return after a ten year absence from my hometown, that I was able to work along side army wives, veterans, and soldiers. I love hearing about their experiences, their hometowns, and how they're coping. These stories could be about anyone, and wherein their beauty lies. I was left wanting more! I read the opening paragraph at 1:00 this afternoon, and read the final sentence four hours later. That's not characteristic for me, but the interweaving stories were so immersive, her style of prose so welcoming. I cannot wait to read her full length novel, The Confusion of Languages.
This is an amazing collection of short stories, by a brilliant author.
I read it non-stop, cover to over. Bravo!
All the stories are about Fort Hood, Texas and the military families that reside or work there. The title story is about the wives of the military men. They take care of their own but their world is insular. When a foreign born army wife with minimal command of the English language, little understanding of cooking, unable to read directions and with a dog like Cujo comes into their midst, she challenges their solidarity and her every movement becomes an object of interest or suspicion. In 'Camp Liberty', an American soldier grows to care for his Iraqi translator. When she disappears, his world is torn apart. In 'Remission', a military wife deals with breast cancer along with the tribulations of raising an adolescent daughter. 'Inside the Break' is a powerful story of a military wife who hacks into her husband's e-mail. She discovers a secret that is almost impossible to come to terms with. In 'The Last Stand', a wounded soldier returns from Iraq and realizes that the wife he loves is leaving him. 'Leave' is about a military intelligence officer who returns on leave from Iraq to spy on his own wife. 'You Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming' tells of a marriage at risk after a soldier is jailed overnight with no memory of what occurred.
Siobhan Fallon, in an interview with Bookbrowse.com states that there is a lot of literature about the battlefield but not much about the home front. She is a military wife and knows that soldiers have families waiting for them at home, "all of them worrying, grieving and hoping their soldier will return to them. Those stories are fascinating to me, all those moments that lead up to a deployment as well as the moments that follow a homecoming, and I wanted to show readers that very specific and somewhat neglected world." Ms. Fallon does just that in this poetic, powerful, and brilliant book.