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Informative,
Interesting,
Gloomy

4 reviews

You Know When the Men Are Gone
by Siobhan Fallon

Published: 2011-01-20
Hardcover : 240 pages
20 members reading this now
10 clubs reading this now
5 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 4 members
Reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Tim O'Brien, an unforgettable collection of intercollected short stories.

In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls... You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain. You also ...
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Introduction

Reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Tim O'Brien, an unforgettable collection of intercollected short stories.

In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls... You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain. You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, and, best of all, no more front doors slamming before dawn as they trudge out for their early formation, sneakers on metal stairs, cars starting, shouts to the windows above to throw them down their gloves on cold desert mornings. Babies still cry, telephones ring, Saturday morning cartoons screech, but without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life.

There is an army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas. Through a series of loosely interconnected stories, Siobhan Fallon takes readers onto the base, inside the homes, into the marriages and families-intimate places not seen in newspaper articles or politicians' speeches.

When you leave Fort Hood, the sign above the gate warns, You've Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming. It is eerily prescient.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

Leave

Three a.m. and breaking into the house on Cheyenne Trail was even easier than Chief Warrant Officer Nick Cash thought it would be. There were no sounds from above, no lights throwing shadows, no floorboards whining, no water running or the snicker of latenight TV laugh tracks. The basement window, his point of entry, was open. The screws were rusted, but Nick had come prepared with his Gerber knife and WD–40; got the screws and the window out in five minutes flat. He stretched onto his stomach in the dew–wet grass and inched his legs through the opening, then pushed his torso backward until his toes grazed the cardboard boxes in the basement below, full of old shoes and college textbooks, which held his weight. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

In the first story, "You Know When the Men Are Gone," why does the narrator develop such an obsession with her neighbor? While it turns out that Natalya is worthy of Meg's scrutiny, is it easier for Meg to be a nosy neighbor than for her to focus on the danger her husband faced overseas?

Infidelity is a recurring theme in many of the stories. Did this surprise you?

Most of the stories take place in Fort Hood. Why do you think "Camp Liberty" is included in the collection if it takes place in Iraq? Is it in keeping with the other stories?

In "Camp Liberty," "Leave," and "The Last Stand," the main characters are men. Does that change the feel from the rest of the collection, which is primarily from a female point of view?

Many of the stories in You Know When the Men Are Gone are about the relationships between men and women. How would these stories change if the protagonists were flipped? If, say, "Inside the Break" was told from Manny's point of view instead of Kailani's? Or if "Leave" followed Trish instead of Nick?

In "The Last Stand," why does Helena sleep with Kit in the hotel room? Do you find her sympathetic?

In "Remission," Ellen feels that she is pitied by the other wives because of her cancer, but considered lucky because her husband has not been deployed. Does either of these circumstances outweigh the other? Is there a sliding scale of "tragedy" and "luck" in the lives of the families in Fort Hood? In your own life?

"Inside the Break" mentions pamphlets with such titles as "Roadmap to Reintegration," "What to Expect When Deployed Soldiers Return," and "Communicating with Your Spouse." Is it possible to sum up, in writing, the vast emotional landscape that families and soldiers experience upon the soldiers' return? Do you think Siobhan Fallon attempted to do that with this collection? If you think so, did she succeed?

What do you think the husband does at the end of "Leave"?

In "You've Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming," the sign refers to drunk driving, but do you think the author intends it as a metaphor for more?

In the same story, toward the end, Fallon writes: "Their fate depended on whether Carla walked out of the room with the baby or stood next to her husband. She bit her lip and wondered if this was the sum of a marriage: wordless recriminations or reconciliations, every breath either striving against or toward the other person, each second a decision to exert or abdicate the self." Do you agree with this take on marriage? Or do you think it's applicable only under extreme circumstances?

Which is your favorite story, and why?

Obviously the stories in You Know When the Men Are Gone are tied together by Fort Hood. What other themes do the stories share?

From the publisher

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Very good and realistic"by sonalea (see profile) 04/24/12

As an Air Force wife, I could relate to the stories. As my husband retired from the AF 15 yrs ago, it brought back a lot of memories. I had totally forgotten about the playing of retreat a... (read more)

 
  "YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE"by donna624 (see profile) 03/06/12

THE book gave us an insight to the lives of Army wives and all they have to deal with life on a day-to-day basis. A few chapters gave the male point of view and how they reacts to their deployment or... (read more)

 
  "Left us hanging"by RVingRNinFL (see profile) 03/06/12

The endings to these separate stories left us wondering what was going to happen next. The stories all took place on the Ft Hood base but were not interconnected. It did make for good discussion in our... (read more)

 
  "You Know When the Men are Gone"by karsu (see profile) 03/27/11

An insightful and descriptive collection of short stories Ft. Hood families, their lives inside the base, their trials and fears revolving around the soldiers and their experiences. Though fictional,... (read more)

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