The phrase "Army Wife" conjures up different images to different people: the dutiful [or not so dutiful] wives of the "Greatest Generation" trying to believe "no news is good news," the all-but-forgotten Korean War wives, the young women in "mod" dresses waiting for their soldiers to get their tour(s) in in Vietnam or those more recently whose husbands have served in Desert Storm or even more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's now more than 30 years since military service was a rite of passage for American men, so to the majority of Americans the military is a world unto itself. And military life is studied in almost anthropological terms. That said, this slim book tries to open the door a crack to allow civilians into the stifling or protective [take your pick] world of the Army wife when her husband deploys. [Yes, WOMEN also deploy--this is the story of an infantry deployment, so women are not involved--except for a small group from a support company].
What do the wives fear? Just death? No, death--or course, but also PTSD and other life-changing injuries, local women and those 15 women in the support company that also deploy for the year with their men. They fear growing apart, forgetting and being left for one of those "other" women. It happens. A newer Serbian wife is the subject of one chapter. And an email exchange clouds another. The stories are gripping and well written. The author is herself and Army wife so they should be!
Not really a collection of short stories, not really a novel or even novella, this little book gets to the heart and soul of the wives portrayed. I only wish it had been bigger--I was left wanting much, much more of these stories. And much more aware of the service of the real-life counterparts of these women.
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon