Siobhan Fallon makes an incredible debut with You Know When the Men Are Gone, an anthology of eight short stories about the residents of the Fort Hood army base in Texas. Each story very frankly addresses a different aspect of army life: the insular life on the base, the wretchedness of waiting to hear about a loved one, the difficulty of returning to civilian life on the part of both the soldier coming home and the family left behind. Some characters are overcome by loneliness and turn to a civilian who won’t leave them for a year-long tour. Some characters come home expecting to be welcomed by a loved one, only to find their wives and husbands significantly changed. It’s a poignant collection that delves into a part of war that we don’t often hear about, and it’s clear that Ms. Fallon brings her own experience as an army wife into everything.
As the granddaughter of a veteran, I was extremely affected by this book. I loved the honesty and the lack of sentimentality and that Ms. Fallon let each story speak for itself. All of the stories are incredible, but I really loved the final story, where a young war widow meets the soldier her husband saved.
May is Short Story Month, and reading You Know When the Men Are Gone is a great way to celebrate.