You Know When The Men Are Gone, by Siobhan Fallon – Book Review

When Siobhan Fallon’s You Know When The Men Are Gone started making the rounds last winter, the immediate feedback on it touted an incredible collection of short stories. I heard this from several book blogging friends who are usually about as “meh” as I am on short stories. Encouraging, but still, I didn’t run right out and pick it up, and probably would not have- only my book club chose it as one of our selections. So guess what? I read it and loved it.

You Know When The Men Are Gone, is a collection of interlinking shorts revolving around the lives of military wives and their families. It’s beautifully written and details these women’s experiences as they cope the stages of their husbands’ deployments. The most difficult story to get into was the first one which had a young Russian wife struggling with motherhood and culture shock while alone on the military base. There was something a little distancing and intangible about the story, but it was an introduction into some of the men and women I would encounter in later stories.

Fallon writes in an appealing and straightforward ways that gets the reader into the heart of these women’s lives as the deal with child-rearing, money woes, loneliness, isolation and infidelity without very much support. They rely on each other as much as they can for support, but there is a strong sense of the sacrifice involved in leading the lives that they do. Engaging and honest, this short collection is a tear-jerker for sure and a fascinating look at what it means to live a military life. Highly recommended.

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  1. I totally loved this one. I listened to it on audio, and was narrated by the amazing Cassandra Campbell. It was a five star listen. I guess we all know the sacrifices that servicemen make for our country, but nobody tells the spouse’s stories.

  2. I bet this was a great book club selection – there’s a lot to talk about in these stories. It really introduced me to a world I didn’t know. Glad you enjoyed it – Siobhan is a lovely person and a lovely writer.

  3. I have read a few tepid reviews of this one, but I am not sure that I would feel the same way. First off, I have been gravitating more towards short stories lately, and secondly, I think the issues that this collection deals with sound heartrending and also fascinating. I have been thinking about adding this book to my collection, but something has kept holding me back. I think your review has made me finally see the light and I will be looking for my own copy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it with us.

  4. This one seems to get rave reviews by all. Funny that I didn’t realize that this was a collection of short stories based on the other reviews I have read!

  5. I enjoy short stories and other reviews of this book had me listing it for a future read. I always happy to hear positive reviews from readers who aren’t short story fans. I hadn’t heard so much about the first story. It interests me that it’s more difficult to connect to than the others. It also sounds like an important part of the book because introduces some character encountered in later stories which is not usually found in books of short stories. It’s a nice way to tie them together.