When Siobhan Fallon’s You Know When The Men Are Gone started making the rounds last winter, the immediate feedback on it touted an incredible collection of short stories. I heard this from several book blogging friends who are usually about as “meh” as I am on short stories. Encouraging, but still, I didn’t run right out and pick it up, and probably would not have- only my book club chose it as one of our selections. So guess what? I read it and loved it.
You Know When The Men Are Gone, is a collection of interlinking shorts revolving around the lives of military wives and their families. It’s beautifully written and details these women’s experiences as they cope the stages of their husbands’ deployments. The most difficult story to get into was the first one which had a young Russian wife struggling with motherhood and culture shock while alone on the military base. There was something a little distancing and intangible about the story, but it was an introduction into some of the men and women I would encounter in later stories.
Fallon writes in appealing and straightforward ways that gets the reader into the heart of these women’s lives as the deal with child-rearing, money woes, loneliness, isolation and infidelity without very much support. They rely on each other as much as they can for support, but there is a strong sense of the sacrifice involved in leading the lives that they do. Engaging and honest, this short collection is a tear-jerker for sure and a fascinating look at what it means to live a military life. Highly recommended.