You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

At the conclusion of this book, Fallon states that through her stories she hoped to create a window into the world of military families. She “wanted to capture the moments that lead up to a deployment as well as those that follow a return” and focus “on the families that wait at home and try their best to stay intact, try their best to find everything they need within those guarded gates” (pg. 222). I think she accomplished her goal. I was introduced to a world I know very little about, given the opportunity to visit the world behind the barbed wire gates separating Fort Hood from the rest of Texas.

Her short stories present the complex relationships women have with their deployed (and returning) husbands. There is the woman brought back to the States after the Kosovo War and fails to conform to expectations of Army wives. There is the woman who thinks her husband is having an affair and the man who thinks the wife he left behind has moved on. The reader slips into their lives and then glides right back out into the world of the woman next door, the woman down the street, or the man halfway around the world.

But this slipping in and out is also the downfall of this book. You never find out what happened to the woman who abandoned her kids the night before her husband returns from Iraq or the man who returns home on leave to find his wife in bed with another man. The connections you start to form with these characters are ignored in favor of presenting yet another condition military couples may find themselves in. I would have much rather had Fallon focus on one woman’s story and tell it so well rather than throw so many characters at me.

One thing I found interesting was that she never portrayed a women going off to war and leaving behind a man. Fallon does a good job of slipping into the heads of those men deployed and of the women left behind, but she never attempts to present what life is like for women deployed and men back in the United States.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Fallon, Siobhan. You Know When the Men Are Gone. New York: Amy Einhorn Books, 2011. Print. 226 pgs. ISBN: 9780399157202. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Amy Einhorn Books. Retrieved: June 25, 2011.
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