You Know When the Men Are Gone (Hardcover)

By Siobhan Fallon

Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 9780399157202, 240pp.

Publication Date: January 20, 2011

Summer 2012 Reading Group

“Surprising, get-under-your-skin characters populate the spare landscape of Fort Hood, Texas, in this collection of linked stories that will have a compelling effect on even the most skeptical reader. Fallon opens a window into military base life from the perspective of the quiet supporters -- spouses, children and injured vets - who stay home when the men deploy. A riveting debut!”
— Nicole Magistro, The Bookworm of Edwards, Edwards, CO
View the List

February 2011 Indie Next List

“Surprising, get-under-your-skin characters populate the spare landscape of Fort Hood, Texas, in this collection of linked stories that will have a compelling effect on even the most skeptical reader. Fallon opens a window into military base life from the perspective of the quiet supporters - spouses, children and injured vets - who stay home when the men deploy. A riveting debut!”
— Nicole Magistro, The Bookworm of Edwards, Edwards, CO
View the List
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Description

Reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Tim O'Brien, an unforgettable collection of intercollected short stories.

In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls... 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.

There is an army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas. Through a series of loosely interconnected stories, Siobhan Fallon takes readers onto the base, inside the homes, into the marriages and families-intimate places not seen in newspaper articles or politicians' speeches.

When you leave Fort Hood, the sign above the gate warns, You've Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming. It is eerily prescient.



About the Author

Siobhan Fallon lived at Fort Hood while her husband, an Army major, was deployed to Iraq for two tours of duty. She earned her MFA at the New School in New York City. She lives with her family near the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA.


Praise For You Know When the Men Are Gone

"There is the war we know—from Hollywood and CNN, about dirt-smeared soldiers disarming IEDs and roaring along in Humvees and kicking down the doors of terrorist hideouts—and then there is the battleground at home depicted by breakout author Siobhan Fallon, an army wife with a neglected, deeply important perspective and a staggering arsenal of talent, her sentences popping like small arm fire, her stories scaring a gasp out of you like tracer rounds burning in the night sky over your home town."
– Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding, Refresh, Refresh, and The Language of Elk



"What a fascinating, rare glimpse into the domesticity of war. This is a wonderful debut. Each beautifully rendered story is braced with intelligence and wisdom."
– Jill Ciment



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Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. In the first story, You Know When the Men Are Gone, why do you think the narrator develops such an obsession with her neighbor?  While it turns out Natalya was worthy of Meg’s scrutiny, do you think it was easier to literally be a nosy neighbor than for Meg to focus on the danger her husband faced overseas
  2. Infidelity is a recurring theme in many of the pieces.  Did this surprise you? 
  3. Most of the stories take place in Fort Hood – why do you think Camp Liberty is included in the collection if it takes place in Iraq?  Do you think it’s in keeping with the other stories? 
  4. In Camp Liberty, Leave, and The Last Stand, the main characters are men.  Do you think that changes the feel from the rest of the collection which is primarily from a female point of view?
  5. Many of the stories in You Know When the Men Are Gone are about the relationships between men and women.  How would these stories change if the protagonists were flipped?  If say, Inside the Break were from Manny’s point of view instead of Kailani’s? Or if Leave followed Trish instead of Nick? 
  6. In The Last Stand why do you think Helena sleeps with Kit in the hotel room, but still leaves him the next morning?  Do you find her sympathetic?
  7. In Remission Ellen feels that she is pitied by the other wives because of her cancer, but considered lucky because her husband has not been deployed.  Do you think that one of these circumstances outweighs the other?  Is there a sliding scale of “tragedy” and “luck” in lives of the families in Fort Hood?  In your own life?
  8. Inside the Break references pamphlets with titles such as “Roadmap to Reintegration,” “What to Expect When Deployed Soldiers Return,” and “Communicating with Your Spouse” – do you think it’s possible to sum up, in writing, the vast emotional landscape that families and soldiers experience upon returning?  And do you think Siobhan Fallon has attempted to do that with this collection, and if so, did she succeed?
  9. In Leave – what do you think the husband does at the end?
  10. In the story entitled You’ve Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming — the sign is referring to drunk driving, but in the collection, do you think the author has it stand as a metaphor for more?
  11. In the same story, towards the end it says, “Their fate depended on whether Carla walked out of the room with the baby or stood next to her husband. She bit her lip and wondered if this was the sum of a marriage: wordless recriminations or reconciliations, every breath either striving against or towards the other person, each second a decision to exert or abdicate the self.”  Do you agree with this take on marriage? Or do you think it’s applicable only under extreme circumstances?
  12. Which is your favorite story?  Why?
  13. Obviously all of the stories in You Know When the Men Are Gone are tied together by Fort Hood.  What other themes do the stories all share?


Coverage from NPR

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