You Know When the Men Are Gone
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Fort Hood, Texas, is the largest military installation in the free world—340 square miles, as Siobhan Fallon notes in her fascinating You Know When the Men Are Gone
(Amy Einhorn/Putnam). Fort Hood also functions as a small town; everyone in these eight interconnected tales knows everyone else's business—or tries to. Neighbors read ordinary objects like tea leaves: Contents of a shopping cart may foretell child neglect, an unclaimed pickup truck portends marital discord, a freshly mown lawn whispers of cancer. Mostly, though, the women wait for their husbands to come home and provide an intimacy that never arrives. Fallon, the wife of an officer, writes with understatement about the divide between those who go and those who stay: "Then, in the dark, he almost told her about Sergeant Schaeffer, how his body had pinned Kit down, his arms outstretched over him like some Old Testament angel. How he could smell Schaeffer burning and he thought it was his own flesh." Whether or not characters agree to the unwritten pact of secrecy between soldier and civilian, war marks them as surely as medals on a uniform.
— Bethanne Patrick