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Forbearance and fear are hallmarks of these lives, and they are given voice by Cassandra Campbell. She personifies each character with understated command, and her deftly light accents, range of cadence, and perfectly-timed pauses put her in the ranks of the best narrators. Her affinity with the book and its subject matter inform her performance and give it a sort of stoic restraint.
In the title story, Meg, waiting for her husband’s stint to end, becomes obsessed with her new neighbor Natalya, a Serbian beauty of sadness and cryptic broken English and a secret night life that she leaves her children home alone for. Empathizing, feeling an outsider too, being childless among all the army mothers Meg fills her loneliness by trying to puzzle out Natalya’s reality.
In “Inside the Break”, Hawaiian-born Kailani hacks her husband’s email after a long silence and discovers that he, or another Manny Rodriguez (as he will claim), has cheated on her with a notorious female soldier in Iraq. She sees their future together telescope to a single decision about knowing and refusing to know. Finally, “The Last Stand” offers a searing example of Fallon’s unflinching exploration of physical and mental pain. In it, a soldier named Kit survives a fierce attack with a shattered leg and a limited supply of Vicodin. In the hospital, he endures by keeping a mental list of the many simple pleasures of life back home with his young wife; a list that threatens to become an unbearable artifact of their marriage upon his return.
Fallon writes with nuance and many shades of grey and, like the best short story writers, delicately balances epiphany and inevitability and draws from the deepest knowledge of her characters and their world; indeed, she writes as one of them, with heart but without pity. With Campbell’s perfectly complimentary support, we hear in Fallon’s work dimensions of loss that soldiers and their families experience to gain our security. Elly Schull Meeks
As Siobhan Fallon shows in this collection of loosely interconnected short stories, each woman deals with her husband's absence differently. One wife, in an attempt to avoid thinking about the risks her husband faces in Iraq, develops an unhealthy obsession with the secret life of her neighbor. Another woman's simple trip to the PX becomes unbearable when she pulls into her Gold Star parking space. And one woman's loneliness may lead to dire consequences when her husband arrives home. In gripping, no-nonsense stories that will leave you shaken, Fallon allows you into a world tightly guarded by gates and wire. It is a place where men and women cling to the families they have created as the stress of war threatens to pull them apart. The stories included in this collection are "You Know When the Men Are Gone", "Camp Liberty", "Remission", "Inside the Break", "The Last Stand", "Leave", "You Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming", and "Gold Star".
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Pamela Harvey on 01-22-11
You know when you've got a great read!
This is an astonishing book on so many levels. It's a collection of short stories, but somehow the characters are connected, and any one story could be expanded into a complete novel. Fallon writes with depth and extreme multi-layered perception and nuance about an aspects of life in general and life in the military deployed in particular, a theme seldom touched on in contemporary fiction. Fallon expands the soldier's story to include his/her family and each of their stories as well, and she shatters the over-simplified myth that our soldiers are always model citizens, always perfect, morally correct, and she ventures into the grey areas that inform anyone's life, military or civilian. She also brings to light the cultural differences between the enormous energy center of a military base compared to its civilian counterpart. Mostly, her stories finish with equivocal resolution, thus the reader needs to step up and imagine. I hope to see more from this writer.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
By Amber on 03-05-11
Sad yet heartwarming stories of war
In this collection of shorts, each story has a different perspective on the aftermath of war, ranging from the heartbreak of wives and children left without husbands for years at a time, to the experience of soldiers returning to a place that no longer feels like home. The only jarring bit is the breaks between stories--there aren't any, so as I was listening I kept having to go back a bit because I'd realize that a new story had started without me being aware of it. (A bit confusing at first!) This audiobook is also short, which is nice for those times when you're not in the mood for a 19 hour monstrosity. The narrator's voice is pleasant and the stories were interesting.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful