You Know When the Men Are Gone is a collection of short stories by Siobhan Fallon. They all set on a military base in Ft. Hood, Texas and each deals with a different aspect of the military experience. The similar theme helps the collection to read as a single work, but the stories are so different in tone, style, and genre that they are also incredibly individual.
The title story has a literary feel, told from the point of view of a wife as she awaits her husband’s return. This is a deep, thoughtful, layered story.
In contrast, “Leave” is a suspenseful story with an almost psychotic feel when a soldier stakes out his own house instead of going home, convinced that his wife has been having an affair.
Fallon’s writing manages to be evocative without being overly wordy or flowery. There’s a sparseness about it that lends weight to the sad and serious issue of families who are ripped apart by year-long deployment overseas. The issues that these loosely related stories touch on include unfaithfulness, insecurity, illness, divorce, abuse, the mother-daughter relationship, death and so much more.
I enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone with this group of short stories. They do sometimes seem unresolved, which leads me to think a little more deeply about them, but there’s nothing missing from characterization or plot, so I would definitely pursue more short story collections in the future.
We’ve added a short stories label and moved previous reviews to it, so if you want to check out some other reviews in this genre, just click the category label at the bottom of the post or the one that’s linked here. You can also always search the archives by category at the bottom of the right sidebar.
Jennifer Donovan’s husband travels occasionally, but 20 – 30 days a year is nothing like a year long deployment. She blogs (when she’s not reading and reviewing) at Snapshot.