'You Know When the Men Are Gone,' Siobhan Fallon

Her husband’s in Afghanistan. How does an Army wife fill the long wait?

He'll be deploying soon. He’ll be gone for a while, so he’s fussing around the house, doing small chores, making sure she won’t have to worry. But she’s worrying anyhow. Crying a lot, too.

Siobhan Fallon’s novel, You Know When the Men Are Gone, provides a glimpse of what goes on in Army base housing tracts.

When you’re an Army wife living on a base like Fort Hood in Texas, you learn to get along with others, even though you might never see them again after this deployment. You’ll be moving in six months or a year or two — but that doesn’t mean you won’t baby-sit in a pinch. That doesn’t mean you won’t watch one another’s backs.

Sometimes, though, the Army does things you can’t do anything about, like when they send women to a Forward Operating Base: single women, near a platoon filled with lonely husbands. Sometimes, things happen and you just don’t want to know.

And then there are the times you do want to know. You’d be interested in talking to the soldier whose life your husband saved before he was killed by an IED. You’d want to hear about your husband’s last minutes. You’d want to hang on to every memory you could.

He has his memories, too. Just a telephone call can keep him sane over there.

All the time, he’s thinking about his troops and himself, making sure that neither gets hurt. He’s dreaming about toilet paper, the kids, fresh socks balled up in a drawer, food that hasn’t been sitting on a truck for the last six months. He’s dreaming about a clean bed, too, and hoping that you’re not sharing one with somebody else….

The characters in this collection of short stories – each connected by the thinnest of threads – will put a lump in your throat after they’ve taken your breath away. Fallon lived at Fort Hood during her husband’s two tours of duty, so she created those characters with the voice of one who’s been there.

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