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. -- Amy Einhorn
I absolutely loved YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE by Siobhan Fallon! Even though I read this book in the middle of January, I am pretty sure that it's going to be one of my favorite books for 2011. This book was incredible and I can't rave enough about it. It has affected me like few books I've read in recent memory. Needless to say, I will be telling everyone I know that it is a must-read.
YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE is actually a collection of stories about women who remain home at Fort Hood while their husbands are off fighting for our country. The reader gets an inside view into how these women deal with saying goodbye to their husbands as well as how they receive them when they finally arrive back home after their tours. In addition, there are stories that show how these women cope when their husbands are away -- their loneliness, their friendships with other wives, their relationships with other men, etc.
Now I'm the first to admit that I'm not a big fan of short stories (nor have I read many collections), but YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE just might have changed all of that. I can't imagine enjoying (although appreciate is probably a better word) a book more than this one. And what I found even more odd about my love affair with this collection is that I usually have one or two stories that really stand out for me... and one or two that are kind of dingers. That wasn't the case with this book -- I loved all of the stories and I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite (or even two.)
I hesitate to even try to write a review for this book because I know I can't do it justice. So I'm telling you to JUST READ IT! However, I do feel that I need to feature some of the amazing things about these stories. First and foremost, Ms. Fallon's writing is just exquisite -- I loved how she brought these characters to life. I felt their pain, heartache and desperation; and while these characters were fictional in nature, I couldn't help but believe that their thoughts and feelings were so real. As I read these stories, I was so grateful that I have my husband near me (and safe) all of the time, however, my heart just broke for all of these families who sacrifice so much for everyone else. I'm pretty sure that I will never look at military families the same way again.
In addition, I think the author did a remarkable job of tying together the various stories. While each story definitely stands alone, the real power of the book is how they are work so well together. Each of the stories is interconnected, and many of the characters reappear throughout the various stories. What I absolutely adored is that the stories had a universal theme in showing the different ways that women (and their husbands) dealt with going overseas to war. Each family's reaction is as individual as the family, but they all rang true to me as a reader. I found that each story was painful to read for a variety of reasons, but I felt as if I couldn't judge any one person -- every story just broke my heart in one way or another.
I wish it were my turn to pick a book for my book club because I think YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE is perfect for discussion. There is a reading guide available which delves more deeply into many of the topics I mentioned above. Some of the themes you might want to further explore include infidelity, marriage, tragedy, different coping mechanisms, luck, acceptance, resentment, and grief. These topics sound like "downers," but I think you'll agree that the book covers some extremely important issues and is well worth the time to read and discuss.
This book made me laugh and cry over and over again; and I know that the characters and their stories will remain in my thoughts for a very long time. YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE is just one of those books that will change the way you see the world around you. Highly recommended!
Thanks the the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.