Somewhere on your reading list, make room for Lesley Nneka Arimah’s dazzling and thoughtful debut collection of short stories: What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky. These stories stayed with me for quite some time, getting up under my skin and lingering there, mildly disturbing, mildly haunting, and entirely memorable. Arimah examines humanity and relationships in striking snippets, slices of lives extracted and told with precision by way of magical realism, flavors of dystopia, Nigerian cultural milieu, and creative mythology by turns. Each has its own carefully crafted sense of place, and the aches and cares of each character all but pop off the page.
“Windfalls” stuck with me, the narrator’s flat acceptance of her life starkly contrasting with the shocking intentional injuries she suffers at the hands of her manipulative mother for payouts. “Who Will Greet You at Home” likewise left an indelible impression on me, lingering long after I finished the book. It is the story of a young woman who creates infants out of yarn, of paper, of human hair, hoping that Mama will bless them so she will have a child of her own, and she trades measures of her empathy and then even her joy in payment. It begs the question, much are we willing to give to get what we want? What society says we should want? And how high is too high a cost? What if the price becomes our humanity?
Arimah draws you in over and over, each story engaging in its own way. She is particularly good at teasing out the unique trials of being a girl in a world intent on extinguishing those who shine a little too brightly. Grab this book, savor each story, and ponder the imprints they leave on you.