Thursday, April 19, 2012

DUAL/GUEST REVIEW: You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

We've got another guest review! Donna is a regular library patron and a second time guest reviewer for Book News & Reviews. She previously contributed a review of Home at Last by Bonnie Leon. This time around, Donna chose to review one of my absolute favorite reads of 2011, so I am also posting my mini-review from the last BCPL Recommended Reading List...

Donna's Rating: 4/5 Stars
Tracy's Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Genre: Short Stories/Realistic Fiction
Audience: Adult

Donna's Summary & Review:
I really enjoyed this book. It was another book that I could not put down once I started reading it. The novel is set in Ft. Hood, Texas. These are lives lived on the military base, a world all its own, complete with its own stores, movie theaters, even its own laws. The missing husbands are living on the other side of the world, deployed to wherever the government says they are needed.It actually is a collection of short stories, mostly written from the deployed soldiers' wives' point of view. There is one story at the end that is actually written from the soldier's point of view.

All the stories are very down to earth and believable, with all the raw human emotions that come along with messy, long distance relationships. Qualities like jealousy, uncertainty, fear, pride, shame, disbelief, love, loyalty, they run the gamut. Siobhan keeps the stories short enough to make the reader want more, but long enough to make a genuine connection to the characters. If you are a wife living on base, or at home, while "your soldier" is away, you will surely know deep in your gut some of the feelings that surface here. If you are any other part of the military family, it will give you insight into what your soldier and their families are working through. I gave this book 4 stars, only because I would have preferred to have a more complete ending to each short story. I would think that each and every one of the short stories could be made into an individual novel. Other than that, it was a 5 star.

Tracy's Thoughts:
As I said, this was one of my favorite reads last year, and I have been singing its praises to anyone I can get to listen. Here's what I had to say earlier this year:
Eight gripping stories, each showing a different dimension of the domestic side of military life, make up this debut story collection set primarily around the military base in Fort Hood, TX. Fallon shies away from political commentary, instead focusing on the personal drama of families and soldiers coming to grips with extended absences of a year or more. The characters are real and haunting, and their stories are full of complexity and humanity. There is the wife with breast cancer who struggles with her daughter’s rebellion; the successful investment banker–turned–soldier who questions his place in the world; and a bored young wife who becomes obsessed with her Serbian neighbor’s suspicious behavior. In one particularly memorable story, a soldier on leave camps out in his basement on a covert mission to discover whether rumors of his wife’s infidelity are true. Fallon’s prose is simple yet elegant, and the life she breathes into each of her characters left me fully engaged in the book from cover to cover.

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