Friday, May 4, 2012

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon (audio)


You Know When the Men Are Gone
by Siobhan Fallon
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
5 hours, 50 minutes
Tantor Audio, 2011

"In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls. You learn your neighbors' routines: when and if they gargle and brush their teeth; how often they go to the bathroom and shower; whether they snore or cry themselves to sleep. 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."

It doesn't happen very often, but every now and then a book comes along that reminds me why I love to read. You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon, a collection of eight loosely connected short stories about Army families living at Fort Hood, Texas, is one of those rare gems.

It's about more than life on the base; the stories deal with the emotional effects of war on the soldier and on the families left behind. They're about readjusting to civilian life after a tour of duty, and sometimes they're about breaking apart - a failed relationship, losing a loved one, or  injuries sustained in combat. The stories are emotional - some happy, some sad, but all brutally honest. At times they made me uncomfortable or put me on edge.

You Know When the Men Are Gone provided insight and understanding into a world in which I have virtually no first-hand experience, and left me wanting to express my gratitude for the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families.  Siobhan Fallon is an extremely talented young writer. You can be sure I'll read whatever she writes next!


A note on the audio production: 
Cassandra Campbell is one of my favorite narrators, and I'm always more likely to choose an audiobook when her name appears in the credits. Her outstanding performance here surely added to the overall impact of these stories. One minor complaint: The stories often end quite abruptly. It contributes to their power, but I found it jarring and would have appreciated a short pause between stories... just to catch my breath and regroup.

Bottom line:
Read the book, then go thank a soldier... and their family.

My rating:



FTC Disclosure: purchased from audible.com

24 comments:

  1. You know, you're right, a tiny bit more separation would have added to this production, but I'm so glad you loved this! I loved it so much I did the book AND the audiobook.

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    1. Jen - I loved it so much, I ended up getting a print copy from the library to reread !

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  2. I've really been wanting to read this one. My husband is a second lieutenant in the Army. He hasn't ever been deployed because they are putting him through dental school, so we don't live on a base yet, but when we do end up on one I am completely unsure of what to expect. Thanks for your review and reminding me that this book is out there.

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    1. Lorren Lemmons - You can tell the author has been there herself. I think you'll love the book.

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  3. Couldn't agree with you more...I loved this one. You could tell that the author had lived it, you know? Every character was so REAL.

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    1. Sandy - Absolutely. I can't wait to read more... wonder what she's working on now.

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  4. I have three very young nephews in the armed forces... one with kids and I've learned quite a bit about their lifestyle since they've been in. It's a difficult life even when they are not in combat. Especially for my one nephew... he missed his daughter's birth! That had to be hard!

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    1. Ti - The sacrifices these soldiers and their families make are amazing... and humbling.

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  5. Sounds amazing and of course with my son in the Marine Corp one that hits a bit close to home. I'm going to add this one to my wish list right now on audible.com!

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    1. Staci - I thought of you as I was listening - you MUST read or listen to this book!

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  6. Ok, think you've sold me on another audio (how many is that now?). I've been interested in this one for quite a while as my brother-in-law is station at Fort Hood (though think he spends more time in Afghanistan/Iraq than Texas). I've also wanted to recommend it to a friend whose brother is stationed at Fort Hood but wanted to read it first to make sure there wasn't anything too heartbreaking in it.

    Had to look up Cassandra Campbell--have listened to The Help and Henrietta Lacks by her. Loved both.

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    1. Trish - Well it's only fair since you got me to join Pinterest ;-) Seriously, you MUST listen to this book! Cassandra Campbell told me today on twitter that "Recording this was one of the most moving experiences I've had in my audio book career." She's amazing.

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  7. oh yay, I'm so glad you loved this one, I did too!

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    1. Amy - This was one amazing book. Don't think I've seen a negative review yet...

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  8. I have not heard of this book or the author, but my excuse is I'm from north of the 49th parallel. ;) However, thanks for the review, high praise indeed to have a 5 star rating. I'll certainly keep this in mind.

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    1. Arti - This young author is definitely one to watch! She has even been compared to Jhumpa Lahiri. Didn't want to include it in my thoughts (what pressure to live up to praise like that!), but I can see why the comparison is made.

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  9. I've read nothing but positive things about this book. I'm going to see if my library has the audio.

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    1. Vasilly - The audio is amazing... sure hope your library has it. If not, print is good, too. I borrowed it from my library :-)

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  10. I haven't read this yet but it's on my wishlist. I've read some great reviews of this bok but I love your comment about how this is a book that reminds you why you love to read. I don't personally know anyone in the armed forces which is one of the reasons I want to read this book, to know what it's like and understand better the sacrifices the people make.

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    1. Amy - My mother's only brother, a pilot in WWII, died when she was a child, and my grandmother was a Gold Star Mother. I grew up hearing their stories, but have had no experience with the military lifestyle as an adult. I love it when books like this give real insight and understanding. Hope you get a chance to read it soon!

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  11. I read this book last year and it really had an effect on me - I never before appreciated how much the families of the military sacrifice and how the effects of their service continue long after they return from war.

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    1. Booksnyc - Same thing for me. This may end up being one of my favorite audios of the year... we'll see.

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  12. Sounds like a wonderful read. I always think that military families get little credit for the sacrifices they make. We all know the soldier who deploys is making a sacrifice but the wife and kids do too!

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    1. Kathleen - I'm getting better at choosing books I'll enjoy, but this one was something special. It really gave me a new appreciation for sacrifices made by military families.

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