Siobhan Fallon’s “You Know When the Men Are Gone”: Which story stuck with you?

Ellen is sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office on the army base of Fort Hood, waiting to hear the results of a test. The waiting is making her thoughts run wild; she fears that her cancer’s back, that insidious disease that has taken her breasts already, and that has in many ways derailed her family’s life.

Then she gets a phone call. Her teenage daughter and five year old son aren’t in school today, does she have a doctor’s note? She doesn’t. She sent them to school that morning.

This is how “Remission” begins, one of the most haunting stories in Siobhan Fallon’s book of short stories, You Know When the Men Are Gone, centered around the families at Fort Hood military base in Texas. I finished the book a few weeks ago, reading it through quickly in a weekend. There is something about each of the stories that pulls the reader along; they evoke emotions that we all experience and can relate to.

In one story, a sergeant’s widow continues living at Fort Hood after her husband dies, though she avoids the busy supermarket when it’s payday and isolates herself at home, begrudgingly hosting the supportive and concerned friends and colleagues of her husband who are dropping by less and less frequently. In another, a husband, a soldier on leave, is so suspicious that his wife is having an affair that he hides in their basement, stalking her in order to catch her in the act, though he doesn’t know what he’ll do if he does.

It is a testament to Siobhan Fallon’s artistry that she has told the stories of these families affected by our current war with such a subtle, sober hand as to make their world come violently alive.

Joe writes about selecting You Know When the Men Are Gone for our January First Editions Club selection here. Lisa writes about the special appeal this collection of short stories will have to military families, and Lemuria customer Donna Evans shares her connection to the book–read all about it here.

Siobhan Fallon will be signing today at 5:00 and reading at 5:30.

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