What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky
by Lesley Nneka Arimah
‘When Enebeli Okwara sent his girl out in the world, he did not know what the world did to daughters’. The daughters, wives and mothers in Lesley Nneka Arimah’s remarkable debut collection find themselves in extraordinary situations: a woman whose mother’s ghost appears to have stepped out of a family snapshot, another who, exhausted by childlessness, resorts to fashioning a charmed infant out of human hair, a ‘grief worker’ with a miraculous ability to remove emotional pain – at a price. What unites them is the toughness of the world they inhabit, a world where the future is uncertain, opportunities are scant, and fortunes change quicker than the flick of a switch. Characterised by their vividness, immediacy and the author’s seemingly endless ability to conjure worlds at once familiar and unsettlingly different, this collection showcases the work of an extraordinarily talented writer at the start of a brilliant career.
This collection of short stories is so well reviewed that I had to pick it up when I spotted it in the library. Having now finished, I feel like I’m in the vast minority of readers who just didn’t get it.
Each story is women focused, and that’s great, I usually love reading about women in general and the mother-daughter relationships here were definitely something I enjoyed. Each story is unique and several of them felt like they could be full length books, but I wanted more from them. Some of the stories felt to me that they didn’t make much sense without the wider context and it seemed that I was reading random chapters from several different books. When each story finished, often abruptly, I felt underwhelmed, often questioning what I had just read.
I found the writing style a little confusing too. With little time to get to know these characters, I often found that I was lost and had forgotten who I was reading about. Just when I was about to draw a family tree for the characters in the first story, it was over. I was never really invested in these women or their lives.
There are 12 stories in total. One of the stories that I liked the most was “Windfalls”. “Buchi’s Girls” was a lot more engaging than some of the others too. “Who Will Greet You At Home” was so bizarre and full of magical realism that I’m still not sure if I enjoyed it and most of the others didn’t interest me enough to be memorable.
I’m disappointed but not put off by this author. I’d definitely be interested in reading a full length novel by Nneka Arimah.
Overall rating: I didn’t enjoy this collection of short stories. Each story felt unfinished and underwhelming and I found that I couldn’t connect with anything I was reading. Like joining a conversation somewhere in the middle where you’re not 100% what’s going on, these stories seemed more like snippets from a wider story and this lack of connection meant I couldn’t get into most of the stories. I didn’t hate it, some stories were good, so it’s 2 stars for “What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky”.