Wednesday, March 30, 2011

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

This is so silly, but I kept waking up last night thinking:  Oh no! Why did I post so soon?  I wasn't ready yet!  Ack!  Truth is, I posted because I've been dying to comment on everyone's book blogs and I feel dumb posting as "Anonymous said. . ."   I want to officially be part of the book blogging community because you guys are so cool.  I get the best book recommendations by lurking.  But, I'm sick of lurking. I want to join in the conversation.  (And I'll admit, I want to enter into some of those free giveaways y'all host.)

On to a book review. . .

I was perusing The Book Lady's blog a while back and ran across an author interview with Siobhan Fallon.  As soon as I read that You Know When the Men are Gone was a collection of interrelated short stories about life in Fort Hood--from the wives' perspectives--I knew I wanted to read it.  (Of course, the fact that Fallon lists Flannery O'Connor as one of her favorite authors only cemented my decision.)

There are a bazillion books out there about war and the soldier's life but finally here is one about the family, the ones who are left behind to wait while the people they love most are living a totally separate and dangerous life.  I know this is fiction, but Fallon is an army wife so you can hear the truth ringing behind each of these stories.


I guess I'm naive, because I was shocked by the fact that suspicion is a major theme running throughout this book.  Men are constantly checking up on their wives and obsessing over whether or not they are seeing someone else.  And when 15 female soldiers board the bus alongside the men who are deploying--the wives panic! I asked a friend of mine who lived on an Air Force base when she was first married if this is a realistic portrayal and she laughed at my innocence.  (And then she checked out the book and really enjoyed it.)

One of the most surprising things to me is what a double-edged sword Skype is.  The soldier and his wife both look forward to their upcoming Skype session for weeks, building it up in their heads to this poignant, all-important thing--only to be sitting there awkwardly.  Or in one case, their whole conversation is derailed by the husband's suspicion of her infidelity.  What a way to ruin that long-awaited Skype call. 

Fallon does such a great job distilling all the different facets of military life into these stories.  I really loved her chapter titles, too.  For instance, there's one called "You Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming" and it literally refers to the sign posted over a wrecked car as you leave Ft. Hood (lots of drunk driving and speeding when the men come home), but as you've probably guessed, it symbolizes so much more about the transition back into civilian life.

Again, haven't decided on a rating system yet. So, let's just say that I really liked it a lot and am considering buying it because it's the type of book I would loan to people to read.

Former military guy Matt Gallagher does a great review of it over at Bookslut, too.

<I checked this book out of my library.>

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