Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: "You Know When the Men are Gone" by Siobhan Fallon

From Goodreads:  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.

My Thoughts:  This book was incredibley intense.  Fallon has written a wonderful set of short stories about life on Fort Hood and in Iraq.  There are stories from the point of view of army wives and some from the point of view of the men returning.  The stories are heart-breaking, horrifying and some leave you feeling like you have just been punched in the stomach.  The stories sucked me in and made me feel like I knew these characters.  I liked that, even though this was a set of individual stories, some of the characters from one story would make an appearance in another story.  It was interesting to see how all these peoples' lives were intertwined and there was a definite sense of family among the people living on the base.  I normally am not a fan of short story collections but this is definitely one of the best books I have read this year.  5 stars.

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