04 March 2011

Imprint Friday: You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Amy Einhorn Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

I really don't know what to say about today's book. Siobhan Fallon's You Know When the Men Are Gone is an emotional knock-out punch, describing a reality that most of us would otherwise never know or understand.

I'll start (as always) with the publisher's summary:

"In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls. . . . You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain.

You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, and, best of all, no more front doors slamming before dawn as they trudge out for their early formation, sneakers on metal stairs, cars starting, shouts to the windows above to throw them down their gloves on cold desert mornings. Babies still cry, telephones ring, Saturday morning cartoons screech, but without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life."

There is an army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas. Through a series of loosely interconnected stories, Siobhan Fallon takes readers onto the base, inside the homes, into the marriages and families-intimate places not seen in newspaper articles or politicians' speeches.

When you leave Fort Hood, the sign above the gate warns, You've Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming. It is eerily prescient.
Fallon can write about living with uncertainty, without her husband, and within the unique world of the base because she's been there. Her collection is fiction but it has been informed by hard truths. I am almost never attracted to books about the military—likely owing to the fact that I remember the draft, Vietnam, and the politics of the time—but You Know When the Men Are Gone is not to be ignored. It takes us to a place that we might not want to visit, but once we've looked through the gate we'll never forget what we've seen.

Fallon focuses on the families who are left behind and the unwritten rules and customs observed by the sorority of women who often share little more than their fear and loneliness. She also lets us see what happens when the men come back: suspicions, nightmares, lost months; strangeness and awkwardness; and, if you're lucky, moments of relief and joy.

My own review will appear soon, but I'm not sure I can say anything more than what you'll read here:
  • Vinton Rafe McCabe, writing for the New York Journal of Books said: "The stories in this volume are, quite frankly, extraordinary. Not because they tell us about the war or the soldiers who fight the war or the families they come home to, but because they tell us the truth—the deep, emotional truth of the lives of those who populate the stories."
  • Lily Burana, writing for the Washington Post said: "The highest praise I can give this book—as a critic and a soldier's wife—is that it's so achingly authentic that I had to put it down and walk away at least a dozen times. At one point, I stuffed it under the love seat cushions. If Fallon ever expands her talents into a novel, I may have to hide in the closet for a month."
  • Betsey Van Horn, writing for MostlyFiction Book Reviews said: "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. . . . When you hear Fort Hood mentioned in the news again, it will palpate with familiarity. You’ll feel a jolt. . . . You’ll know when the men are gone."
You Know When the Men Are Gone was an Indie Next Pick for February 2011. There are plenty of places to get to know Siobhan Fallon. She has been interviewed and discussed on NPR, she appeared on the Debutante Ball Blog, and she has a blog and website. Book clubs—and believe me, no matter what your age or situation, you'll want to talk about these stories—can find a Reading Group Guide and an essay she wrote for Powell's.

Amy Einhorn Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Amy Einhorn's open letter posted here on January 25, 2010, or click the Amy Einhorn tab below my banner photo. To join the Amy Einhorn Books Reading Challenge, click the link.

You Know When the Men Are Gone at an Indie

Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, January 2011
ISBN-13: 9780399157202


caite 3/4/11, 7:18 AM  

achingly authentic, as the one review calls it, is a wonderful compliment.
I have read several good reviews of this one.

Julie P. 3/4/11, 7:24 AM  

One of the my faves of 2011 -- no doubt! Just loved this book!

Susanne 3/4/11, 7:47 AM  

This has been on my to-read list for about month...I may have to move it up the list.

Jenn's Bookshelves 3/4/11, 8:49 AM  

I agree with Julie, this is one of my favorites of 2011. Fantastic book.

bermudaonion 3/4/11, 9:23 AM  

This book is fabulous! I think it's going to make my best of list for the year too.

Anonymous,  3/4/11, 9:43 AM  

I don't think I've heard of anyone who doesn't just love this book. I'm going to have to move it up I TBR list to read sooner rather than later.

Madeline Mora-Summonte 3/4/11, 10:24 AM  

It's an excellent book and I'm glad it's getting the attention it deserves.

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 3/4/11, 10:30 AM  

Wonderful book. Can't say enough good things about it.

Beth Hoffman 3/4/11, 12:50 PM  

I just recently bought this book and I'm really looking forward t reading it!

Rebecca Rasmussen 3/5/11, 1:30 PM  

Yay for my good friend Siobhan! I am so pleased to see so many people LOVING her wonderful book!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 3/5/11, 9:48 PM  

I'll have to add this book to my wishlist - what great praise from so many corners!

I'll confess that I thought it was a novel when I first started hearing the buzz on it. The NPR interview is fantastic (aren't they always?!)

Beth Kephart 3/6/11, 6:00 AM  

I love how, despite all your own business, you are still making time for these great books.

Michelle 3/6/11, 9:28 AM  

This sounds like a fantastic read!

Robin M 3/6/11, 11:36 PM  

Sounds like one I'll have to add to my wish list.

BookGeek 3/7/11, 12:40 PM  

This looks like a great book club pick, thanks for recommending. I've never read anything quite like it, so it's probably the perfect place to start.

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