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Fresh Air

An Army Wife Reflects On 'When The Men Are Gone'

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been fought in an age of embedded reporters, soldiers' blogs and YouTube videos from both the battlefield and the home front.

Debut author Siobhan Fallon employs the more traditional, low-tech medium of short fiction to describe the lives of soldiers, and especially their families, in her new collection, You Know When the Men Are Gone. Fallon is a military wife herself, and her new book is based largely on the experiences of Army families in Fort Hood, Texas. Fallon received an MFA from the New School in New York City, and she'll soon be leaving for Jordan, where her husband, an Army major, will be stationed.

When soldiers leave on a deployment, she writes, their spouses somehow manage. They improvise. They take the strangeness and make it normal. In her stories, wives have to deal with oil changes and home repairs — as well as loneliness, the crises of adolescent kids and sometimes infidelity and death.

"As soon as the brigades start rotating out, you have this eerie sort of quietness," Fallon tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "And you just start to notice that there are more women and children because you don't have the balance of the males. Suddenly, you're just very aware of the families."

Those families, she says, learn to adapt while their soldiers are away. And sometimes, when their soldiers return, they pretend like they're starting all over again.

"When the soldiers come home, the spouses want to have a fresh start," she says. "A lot of times, the soldiers really don't want to share all of the experiences with their spouse from when they were in the war zone. But then when they come home, it's like starting anew, so it gives this whole feel of a new life starting."

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