What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky - Lesley Nneka Arimah
Publisher: Riverhead Books, NY
Release Date: 2017
Genre: Short Stories
Setting: Nigeria (mostly)
My Rating: 4/5 Stars ****
Evocative, wrenching, and subversive, this dazzlingly accomplished debut collection explores the ties that bind us - parents and children, wives and husbands, lovers and friends - to one another and to the places we call home. (Source: Book Blurb)
For someone who is not big on short stories, having only read Chimamanda’s The Thing Around Your Neck, I must say that I did quite enjoy this book – some stories more than others of course. Arimah is a great story teller and you can tell from this debut collection that she is poised for greatness. The opening of each story pulls you in, setting the tone to ensure you are ensnared and glued to the end.
The collection opens with ‘The Future Looks Good’, a story about Ezinma, a woman living in Nigeria about to open a door and proceeds to explain what came behind her. The ending of this story left me stunned and I had to re-read it. That’s the kind of effect this book has in its entirety, stories that are well-crafted and written impeccably, worthy of a re-read, not necessarily because they are unclear, but because they deserve to be appreciated and read slowly, allowing the reader to savour all the beautiful sentences.
“girls with fire in their bellies will be forced to drink from a well of correction till the flames die out.”
The books explores themes such as magical realism, futuristic fantasy, sci-fi but it’s the stories with ‘motherhood’ and ‘ parent-child relationships’ themes that spoke to me the most, maybe due to my own biases, but I found I was particularly drawn to these stories. ‘Buchi’s Girls’ tells of a mother who has to make tough choices to ‘secure’ the daughters future and in her own way, give the daughter a shot, ‘Windfalls’ of a mother who harms herself and her daughter so she can sue for payout – this ends devastatingly. ‘Wild’ explores the complicated relationships between mothers and their daughters and delves further into familial relationships and ‘Light’ is a yet another beautiful story portraying a father-daughter relationship and his resolve not to dim his daughters light.
The magical realism stories – What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, Who Will Greet You at Home and What is a Volcano did not quite work for me. Maybe a little out of my comfort zone or I was unable to shift focus from the deep motherhood themes to these fantastical ones. But either way, this is an amazing collection of short stories and I am glad I picked this up.
I enjoyed 8/12 stories so that bumps it up to a 4/5 Stars. Highly recommended read.