You Know When the Men Are Gone
You Know When the Men Are Gone
You Know When the Men Are Gone
Price: $51.70 FREE for Members
Type: Audio Book
Format: mp3
Language: English

In this terse and bold book of eight interconnected stories featuring  Fort Hood army wives, breakout author Siobhan Fallon invites readers to  peek through the hazy base-house curtains into largely uncharted  territory.  She offers an intimate glimpse of the spouses and children  left behind to cope when the men in the fictional infantry battalion of  1-7 Cav are deployed to Iraq.  We've seen media pictures proffering the stalwart strength and Mona  Lisa smiles of army wives, but we haven't been host to their private  trials--of farewells, homecomings, and transitions. Fallon captures  their mixed emotions and fears with a gritty realism, and reveals  critical, vital moments in their insular and marginal lives. She glances  sharply into the tearful deployment, the lonely absence, and the  stirring homecoming. How the wives cope with these changes is a  recurring theme. This is fiction, but Fallon writes with authority: her husband, a  major, was deployed in Iraq for two tours of duty while she lived in  Fort Hood. She knows the depth of the cookie-cutter, thin-walled  houses--they are occupied by courageous and terrified women with thick  skins, empty beds, and tentative thoughts.  The wives in this book form a proxy family together, the FRG (Family  Readiness group), where, for better or worse, they convene and connect.  They bond in this dry and desolate patch of Central Texas, support each  other, and wait for news of the front. Mingling with civilians off base  is distressing. It's painful to watch a dad knock around a ball with  his son, or a couple dining out and dancing cheek to cheek.  Some of  these wives have babies who haven't yet met their daddies. How they  endure the complex emotions of separation drives the narrative and  compels the reader.  As Fallon shows us, the time in limbo is often marked with dread and  confusion. It can be a powerful change agent, mushroom their fear, or  injure self-esteem, to name a few effects. It can dash a formerly  positive body image, especially if anxiety and loneliness create eye  bags and a gaunt complexion. The women in her stories often have sleep  disturbances and eat erratically. One woman quells her insomnia by  listening to her neighbor's routines through the permeable walls.  In the first story, Meg goes to the Commissary, eyes a raw slab of  steak--the rivulets of fat, the sanguinary juices, the protruding  bone--and imagines a mortal battle wound. The women wake up every  morning and scan the Internet news for reports of ambushes and roadside  bombs, wondering if their husbands are safe in their quarters or  unrecognizably shattered in numberless pieces. Meanwhile, they have  individual, separate concerns. Fallon kicks it up a notch with her story  about a wife in remission from breast cancer, waiting to see the latest  reports of her medical tests.  In the meantime, her kids did not show  up for school, and she has to deal with the embarrassment of soldiers on  base assisting, investigating, and scrutinizing her actions that day. And, what is it like to communicate with your loved one only through  technology, to feel the unbearable absence of touch?  To wait, and  wait, time folding in on itself, or rolling out, while you cleave,  living on emails, snail mail, and the rare skype. And, even when they  return, the complex dynamics of adjustment and role reversal are  stunning; the wives have been independent for so long that sharing a  life again can be raw and awkward.  Instead of joyful and warm, it may  be glacial and fraught with erosion. All that alone time carves out  multiple reflections and haunting desires. At least one wife has some  lacerating news for her returning and wounded husband. And, what is it like for the men, the soldiers and officers who have  bravely committed this time to the safety and well being of their  fellow infantrymen? They didn't sign up to divide their loyalties, to  betray their families, but the quixotic beast of war invades the  frontier of domestic life, too. Some of them sneak cell phones into  their camp. One of the soldiers becomes enchanted with a comely foreign  interpreter while on a mission to search for IEDs (Improvised Explosive  Devices). Another soldier isn't sure if he is just paranoid or failed to  perceive his wife's change of heart, and acts frantically on his fears.  And some of them don't make it home. For those wives, it is the pain of  the unknown, the moment of death that is now gone, that took their  husband away. That image, the memories, and the disfigurement of grief  remain. Imagine, all alone, with a flashlight, tiptoeing in the dark inside a  squat, yellow, dusty rectangular building, suddenly bumping up against a  life. You emit a startled gasp. That's what these stories are like.  Fallon's prose is stark and incandescent.  There are no frills or filler  necessary to embellish these candid characters and situations, and I  have only hinted at a few. The passages are powerful and lean, the  nuances chilling and urgent, and the douements radiate with ambiguity.  These are bracing mini-portraits with mega-wattage.  When you hear Fort  Hood mentioned in the news again, it will palpate with familiarity.   You'll feel a jolt. It will never again be just that abstract military  post in Texas. You'll know when the men are gone.

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