Friday, January 28, 2011

You Know When the Men Are Gone

I am not a reader of short stories, let's just get that out of the way. They aren't books that I will gravitate towards, no matter the story description, as I like to be connected with the same characters/plot/voice through the whole book. I know I'm not at all alone in this and that a lot of you are also only "novel" readers, but trust me when I say, you must read this one. For me, it was a total upheaval in my reading preferences...short stories may be good after all! 

You Know When the Men Are Gone is truly unlike anything I've ever read. The stories are definitely individual, but also woven together in a manner that will make you reflect on what this war is doing on a deeper and more personal level. Taking place at Fort Hood and overseas, the reader is given a rare look into what it means to be a military spouse during a time of deployment and the emotional toll the absence of a spouse takes. We are able to see inside the thoughts of these women and men, in a manner that will make you slightly uncomfortable, but in such an interesting and thought-provoking way.

Though each story is amazing and heart wrenching in its own way, I did have a few favorites. "You Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming" shows us how men and women that have been to war must come home and attempt to deal with what they've seen and experienced, while their families are expecting their daddy/mommy/husband/wife back and whole. It's a hard read, but will certainly change the way we think. Once a soldier is home, he or she is not instantly the same...quite the opposite.

"Gold Star" was probably the most emotional for me to read, as it is the tale of a woman given the Gold Star parking place at the commissary...meaning her spouse had been killed at war. Though difficult to think about, the raw details Fallon includes about the mundane tasks a wife must continue to perform after the death of her husband, gave me goosebumps. And it's all so true! As horrible as it is, women on a base the size of Ft. Hood, deal with this as a normal way of life.

As a military spouse, I'm sure this book hits a bit closer to home for me than it does for many, but that doesn't make the impact of the book any less. We are all living through this war and being able to get glimpses of a life as a military spouse, even if fictional, could do everyone some good.

The writing is exceptional and the pure emotions the characters bring out in the reader is a completely unique experience. I have yet to come across a book, let alone a book of short stories, that had me thinking about it as deeply as I am with this one. I want to know these fact, I think I DO know some of these characters. They're real and living on a base near you.

You Know When the Men Are Gone
Siobhan Fallon
240 pages
Adult Fiction/Short stories
Amy Einhorn Books
January 2011


Tina's Blog said...

I'm not much of a short story person, either. This one I actually bought because I have heard such good things about it.

Susan said...

This one sounds so interesting, especially since my BIL's deployed right now. I'm not into short stories either, but this one does sound different. I'll definitely be checking it out.