Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You Know When the Men Are Gone - Siobhan Fallon (Audio)


My family is not one of military stock. None of my relatives are veterans, and none of them are in Iraq. But we have a close friend who fought in Vietnam, and I fully appreciate the level of commitment and sacrifice required of our brave men and women who fight for our country.

When I heard about this collection of short stories written by first-time novelist Siobhan Fallon, I knew it was something I had to experience. Not only were the reviews excellent across the board, I felt it was my duty as an American to better understand the prices paid by our soldiers, their wives and families. Because Fallon is one of these wives, I knew I'd be getting the goods directly from the source.

Synopsis: In a series of loosely connected stories, all taking place in Fort Hood Texas, we are powerfully immersed into the lives of families that have dedicated themselves to the Iraqi war. One wife, newly married and without children, watches with horror as her Serbian war bride neighbor battles loneliness to the detriment of her young twins. Another wife suspects her overseas husband of adultery, but struggles with how she should deal with it. A soldier, wounded with a Purple Heart, returns home to a young wife he no longer knows. Another wife must deal with the death of her hero husband. Battling breast cancer, a wife and mother must bridge the gap with her estranged and angry teenage daughter, knowing that her husband, preoccupied with war concerns, will provide no support.

My thoughts: While all of these stories may sound like doom and gloom, each story has shards of hope embedded within. A whisper of a promise that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As a result, the topics were grave but it never felt too much to bear. It was almost enlightening in a way.

Yet Fallon does not sugar-coat the issues that plague our military families. War kills, year-long separations are isolating, wives raise children on their own, and must rely on other wives for support. Doubts creep in, perspectives change, and the transition from the constant threat of death to civilian triviality is a difficult one.

This perspective was introduced to us in the Oscar-winning movie The Hurt Locker. These stories take it a step further, putting us not only in the heads of our soldiers, but the women who stay back home and wait for them.

Emotionally charged, heart-breaking and realistic with rich, fluid prose, this is one every American should read.

A word about the audio production: I nearly giggled out loud when I saw that this audio was narrated by the incredible Cassandra Campbell. She is one of the prominent narrators in the business, my favorites being The School of Essential Ingredients and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. If you see her name on an audio, you are assured an amazing listening experience.

4.5 out of 5 stars


15 comments:

caite said...

this sounds very interesting to me. I have read a few other reviews but for some reason they did not catch my attention.
..and I love short stories.

JoAnn said...

You're right about the narrator - Cassandra Campbell is the best!

Julie P. said...

LOVED THIS BOOK! I could be convinced that I need to listen to this one in a few months!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I don't know if I could read/listen to this. It seems like it would strike me as wonderful but very painful!

bermudaonion said...

I agree - one of the things I loved about this book was that it told more than the soldiers' side of the story. People often forget the sacrifices the families make.

Zibilee said...

I want to read this book, and your review was just lovely. I haven't read a lot of fiction centered around this war for some reason. I usually read a lot about Vietnam and WWII, but for some reason, the realism of this book strikes a chord in me. I am going to be adding this one to my list, and I will have to let you know what I think of it.

farmlanebooks said...

I'm not a fan of short stories, but I am a fan of Cassandra Campbell. Hmmmm. Not sure if Campbell is enough to swing it for me, but if I fall over a copy in the library I might get it out now I've seen your recommendation.

Jenners said...

You make such a good point...I do think it is almost a moral obligation to read this book and understand the sacrifices being made by these families.

Iliana said...

I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for wives of military men. The uncertainty, loneliness, it must just be tough. Great review Sandy. I'm not very big on war fiction but I like that this focuses on the women more so than actual events.

Trisha said...

Anything that makes you think of The Hurt Locker sounds good to me.

Martha@Hey, I want to read that said...

Wonderful review, I've been wanting to read this book since I first heard of it. I'm going to have to check out this narrator, she's reading some of the books at the top of my "to listen" to list.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I want you to know that it's because of you and a few other folks out there that I continue to persist with audio! :) I will be adding this one to the list - you'll be pleased to know that I'm not giving up on audio as I'm really enjoying the production of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, read by Emilia Fox. I'm glad I kept on with this form of "reading" since I'm loving this story! The narrator is so critical to the success of it!

Swapna said...

Great review - your review may have convinced me to try this one on audio. I'm going to wait awhile to read it, though, because I've heard to many great things, I'm afraid my expectations might be too high.

Anna said...

I'm still waiting for this book from the library! It sounds so good. I live close to a military base and there are lots of military families in The Girl's school. My father was in Vietnam, but that was before he even knew my mom, so I have no experience living in a military family, but for some reason this book is a must-read for me.

Melissa said...

My brothers is a Marine, so I really want to read this one. I think I will listen to the audio (you convinced me with the narrator), but will get my mom a print copy.