This seminal collection of short stories from newcomer Siobhan Fallon may not be particularly fun or whimsical, but consider it your patriotic duty to read these well-wrought tales of bravery on the military homefront. "You Know When the Men Are Gone" is a stirring group of fictional stories about women whose lives are interwoven by one unifying factor: All have partners serving in harm's way while they are back home in Fort Hood, Texas.
Fallon, whose own husband has served two tours of duty, knows firsthand the magnitude of the sacrifices that Army wives make. Operating without any fancy fictional tricks, she reports on a disparate group of struggling women in prose as egalitarian and practical as broken-in desert fatigues. The deployment of a loved one is filled with hardship, but no one's hardship -- or heartache -- is like anyone else's.
In one story, a frantic mother of two receives a diagnosis she wasn't expecting; other wives cope with gossip and issues surrounding adultery, and one returning soldier confides to his stunned spouse that he "'dream[s] about body parts ... once we found just a hand, a little hand from either a woman or a kid, on the side of the road. Still had on a tarnished pinkie ring.'"
These gorgeously written stories may not be pretty, but they are real and impossible to put down. The question is: Are you brave enough to read them?