Life in the military is difficult, not only for the men who go off to war, but for the women and children they are forced to leave behind. This new collection of stories from Siobhan Fallon explores the lives of the men and women who are forced to endure the separation, from both perspectives. We see men who dream of nothing but home, only to find themselves strangely out of place away from the war. We meet women who are bereft without their men, but when the men return are unsure how to fit them back into their strict lives. And we witness the spouses who can’t take the separation, who cheat, from both sides of the equation.
Every tiny bit of praise you’ve heard for You Know When the Men Are Gone is true. This is an incredible collection of stories, and I say that as someone who doesn’t normally like short stories, whose loved ones are all civilians, and who is hesitant about reading books about modern day women’s emotions. Each story in this book is wonderful on its own and as part of this collection. They are all very loosely connected, some having more links than others, but with several universal themes coming through.
Many of those themes are explored through the two different perspectives. We witness just how difficult it is for women when their husbands are gone. They bond together with other mothers, have children early to have something left of their husbands, and end up coping with absolutely everything in the men’s absence. Meanwhile, the men are dreaming of home, even as they’re adjusting to Iraq. Each story in some way deals with a soldier’s return or lack of return.
Infidelity is a big concern for both the soldiers and the women who are waiting for them. After all, a year’s deployment is a very long time, and all of them can get desperate. One husband returns, convinced his wife is cheating, and hides in his own basement to catch her in the act. A wife suspects her husband of cheating, but decides to forgive him and save the love that she still has for him and, she hopes, him for her.
Each story in this collection affected me in some way, tugging on my heartstrings relentlessly. Several had me in tears, which doesn’t happen very often for me and books. I can’t imagine how difficult these lives are, but I truly feel that Fallon gave me a glimpse into the tough struggles that military families go through each and every day. There is definitely a reason this collection has earned so much buzz, and it’s so well deserved. I’m glad to add my voice to the many others who have fallen in love with this book – Fallon is unquestionably an author to watch and You Know When the Men Are Gone is an amazing read.
I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free for review from the publisher.