Monday, March 26, 2012

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

Why do I forget that I enjoy short stories? Tending to read mostly biography, history, and science, I rarely venture to the fiction shelves. Luckily for me, Bonnie left You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon on my night stand. This collection of stories describes the lives of soldiers and their families stationed at Ft. Hood outside Killeen, Texas during the years of the Iraq War. Because soldiers do twelve month (or longer) tours abroad and because most of the combatants are still men, many women and children populate the gigantic base, where there are schools, churches, shopping centers, hospitals, libraries, and such. Rarely having to ever leave the base, 40,000 women are absorbed into a regimental culture. Not all join willingly.

The author knows of what she writes. While her husband served two tours in Iraq, she lived at Ft. Hood, observing the life around her with the eye of a writer. She emphasizes in her notes that the stories are fiction. The specific plots may not be true, but the emotions that drive the conflicts between women and between married couples are authentic. Times of deployment, disastrous attacks in Iraq, and reunion are particularly stressful. A sign near one of the base gates warns "You Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming." That is also the title of one of the stories.

Each story stands by itself, but it is fun to identify a few characters that appear in more than one story. The two longest stories are about forty pages. The stories should be popular with readers of contemporary fiction. 

Fallon, Siobhan. You Know When the Men Are Gone. Amy Einhorn Books, 2011. 226p. ISBN 9780399157202.

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