On Monday, the kids wanted to go to a certain playground they like in the city, and I agreed, as long as we could stop by the San Francisco National Cemetery on the Presidio first. It was Memorial Day, and in some small way, I wanted to pay my respects to the 30,000 soldiers who are buried there. Both kids protested, but once we entered the cemetery and they were confronted with the long, straight rows of white headstones that stretched across acres of grass, they stopped complaining. The ground we stood on felt hallowed.
Today, as I looked at my photos, I thought of a book I read recently, that has nothing to do with adoption or Guatemala, but that I loved reading and still think about: You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon. The book is a series of eight short stories about life on the army base at Fort Hood, Texas, where U.S. soldiers bound for Iraq and Afghanistan are deployed, or waiting to be deployed, or are just returning from deployment. What’s fascinating about the collection is that Fallon focuses mainly on the wives who are left behind when their soldiers leave, painting a vivid, truthful, passionate, funny, and sad picture of how spouses cope and manage and carry on in the face of painful and scary absences. Fallon knows her subject: she’s a writer/military spouse who lived at Fort Hood when her Army major husband was deployed to Iraq for two tours of duty.
You Know When the Men Are Gone was chosen as a Best Book Pick of 2011 by the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Self magazine, the Los Angeles Public Library, and Utah’s The Spectrum. Check out Siobhan Fallon’s author website here.