Praise for Siobhan M. Fallons collection of short stories that deal with home life on a military base has been abundant. The New York Journal of Books has called it The explosive sort of literary triumph that appears only every few years.
Im grateful that people have gravitated toward it, Ms. Fallon said Wednesday from her home in Virginia. Maybe because it tells some of the quieter stories of war and what goes on in the homefront instead of the actual battlefield.
You Know When the Men Are Gone, released in 2011 by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam and issued last year in softcover, is a collection of eight short stories in which Ms. Fallon takes readers onto the Army post in Fort Hood, Texas, and explores the lives of an army of women waiting for their men to return from war in Iraq.
Ms. Fallon visits Watertown on Tuesday for discussions and readings at Jefferson Community College and Fort Drum. Both events are free and open to the public.
The first reading/discussion is at 12:30 p.m. at JCC in Room-6-002, Jules Center Amphitheater. It will be followed by a 4 p.m. program at the McEwen Library, 4300 Camp Hale Road, Fort Drum.
You Know When the Men are Gone is Ms. Fallons first book. She earned her master of fine arts degree in creative writing in 2000 at the New School in New York City.
She worked her way through graduate school by working at her fathers Irish pub in Highland Falls, Orange County. Thats where she met her husband, K.C. Evans, a graduate of West Point. They married in 2004 while her husband was stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and just before he was deployed to Afghanistan. Maj. Evans was transferred to Fort Hood in 2006. The company commander of an infantry unit was deployed to Iraq twice from Fort Hood, home of the 1st Cavalry Division.
Maj. Evans now attends Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., studying for a masters degree in security studies. He is a foreign area officer focusing on the Middle East.
Ms. Fallon began the first story in the collection, the books title story, in 2007. It begins: In Fort Hood housing, like all Army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls.
I just had this image in my head about this woman eavesdropping through the very thin walls in Army apartment buildings, Ms. Fallon said.
One story led to another with similar themes about the world on base with the soldiers deployed.
I wasnt planning on setting the stories at Fort Hood, Ms. Fallon said. I had originally envisioned it as the quintessential Army base in the time of war.
Ms. Fallon began the book when she was pregnant with her first child, a daughter who is now 5. She also has a daughter born this year.
At Fort Hood, Ms. Fallon was a family readiness group leader, offering support and information to the spouses and families of deployed soldiers. That duty also gave her inspiration for her stories.
She took advantage of free child care on base and sat in a nearby Burger King restaurant writing on her laptop while taking breaks to observe people going about their ordinary days.
I was inspired by people milling about, and I found myself taking down a lot of notes while I was sipping my cold coffee, Ms. Fallon said.
Ms. Fallon is working on a novel set in Jordan, where her family lived from January to December 2010 while her husband was deployed there. The novel is set in the embassy world, with military and civilian characters. It touches upon the Arab Spring and the world view of Americans.