I started my year off reading You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon. It was such a wonderful read and really something unlike I would regularly read.
A little bit about this book. It’s a short-story collection predominantly about army wives at Ft. Hood. The stories focus on families and the way they are changed and affected by their husbands’ involvement in the army. The stories are well-written and thoughtful and poignant.
I really, really enjoyed You Know When the Men Are Gone. I haven’t read many short story collections, so this was a nice change of pace from my usual reading. The stories are fast-paced and short enough to read on a lunch break. In fact, the book is short enough and good enough that it can be consumed in a couple of hours if you’re a moderately-fast reader. I’m a slow reader and have bad ADHD, so I don’t sit through books in one reading, almost ever.
You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turn 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 window about to throw 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.
The first story in this collection sets up the premise for the entire book. I love books that tell me everything I need to know immediately. I also love when a book doesn’t need a lot of exposition to set things up. Fallon is sparing with her prose and conservative with her language. She doesn’t waste words. And while I do love well-written, flowery, verbose writing, there is something beautiful about concision. Very Hemingway.
The nine stories in You Know When the Men Are Gone all borrow from the same pool of characters and reference each other. There is something charming and beautiful about this; it shows how people’s lives are all interconnected. There’s something beautifully charming about nine stories that connect and are so separate and independent.
You Know When the Men Are Gone is a delightful book. I highly recommend.
Plucky’s rating? 4.8 stars.
The Plucky Reader