Monday, January 17, 2011

You Know the Men Are Gone Review

You Know When the Men Are Gone
Excerpt: In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls. You learn your neighbors’ routines: when and if they gargle and brush their teeth; how often they go to the bathroom or shower; whether they snore or cry themselves to sleep. 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 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…

My Take: And so the prose continues throughout the book reminiscent of "Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri which nearly made me a short story lover.  Like Jhumpa, Siobhan has insights into human nature and the human heart that far exceeds her years.  After reading the entire book and digesting her writing style and snapshots of the many faces of the military experience, I imagined her to be much, much older.  She articulates with poetic beauty and honesty that can not be counterfeit.

Eight short stories with the common thread of Fort Hood, Texas.  Men serving in the military, women waiting (or not).  The author addresses the many challenges facing not only the soldier but also the wife left at home; the ever present shadow of deployment, the long absences, the single parenting, the homecoming, the adjustment to couplehood and fatherhood previously not known, nightmares, violence, infidelity, widowhood.  The stories are loosely connected.  The question the reader asks at the end of the first story is answered vaguely in a couple of the other stories as the characters interact or live in parallel. 

The honesty and realness of the characters and their situations are disconcerting.  Like life itself, the endings of the stories leave questions. My favorite from the book is "Inside the Break."  To even attempt a summary of this or any of the stories would distract from the art of this book. 

Writing Style: 5 Stars
Character Development:  5 Stars (keeping in mind they are short stories)
Story Development:  Conflicting 5 Stars
Conflict Resolution:  Frustratingly 5 Stars (like a short story)
Cohesiveness: 5 Stars

1 comment:

Leslie @ Under My Apple Tree said...

I read this book too and absolutely loved it.