Book Talk: Life on base when the soldiers are gone

Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:01am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - A Serbian war bride waits for her husband to return from Iraq. A widow tries to find out what happened to her husband in his final hours from the soldier whose life he saved. A wife watches from afar as her husband appears to have an affair.

Siobhan Fallon's "You Know When the Men are Gone," a selection of eight linked short stories, portrays a world rarely, if ever, heard from: the home front on a military base, in this case Fort Hood, Texas, when the soldiers are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the opening scenes of boots thumping down the stairs to early muster, to depictions of how thin the walls in military housing can be and the special language of acronyms used by the women waiting at home for "their soldiers" to return, all is based on details lived by Fallon herself.

She spoke to Reuters about her book and writing about what you know.

Q: How much of this book is based on personal experience?

A: "We were there and my husband deployed twice, so for two of those years I was alone, and I was really involved with the other spouses in a different way than I had been before, at the other bases. It was the first time I had even written anything about the military, that first story in there, and it just opened the floodgates. Once I started writing that particular story I just started seeing stories everywhere, writing what I knew."

Q: Why did that open the floodgates?

A: "Maybe part of it was because of being at Fort Hood -- it's such an all-encompassing place, a world that was that military. I was noticing things I hadn't noticed before, and as I noticed them I was wanting to write them down. I hadn't spent as much time on a military base. We'd lived farther from the bases in the past. Of course, my husband was gone so much of that time. I guess once it occurred to me to start writing about that experience, I couldn't stop. I don't know why."   Continued...