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.
Read the book, then go thank a soldier... and their family.
FTC Disclosure: purchased from audible.com