Star Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky
Lesley Nneka Arimah
Riverhead Books, April 2017
Online Price: R380
Lesley Nneka Arimah’s debut is a vibrant collection of 12 compelling stories set in the US and Nigeria. From fantastical myths to a post-apocalyptic world, all the shorts are varied but cleverly connected by the theme of complexities in relationships – focusing on women in particular.
When Enebeli Okwara sent his girl out in the world, he did not know what the world did to daughters. He did not know how quickly it would wick the dew off her, how she would be returned to him hollowed out, relieved of her better parts.
Women find themselves in extraordinary situations: a daughter whose mother’s ghost appears to have stepped out of a family snapshot, another woman, who, haunted by childlessness, resorts to fashioning a charmed infant out of human hair.
Girls with fire in their bellies will be forced to drink from a well of correction till the flames die out. But my tongue stirred anyway.
This is an accomplished debut collection which explores the ties that bind parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends to one another and to the places they call home.
In ‘Who Will Greet You at Home’, a woman desperate for a child weaves one out of hair, with unsettling results. In ‘Wild’, a disastrous night out shifts a teenager and her Nigerian cousin onto uneasy common ground. In ‘The Future Looks Good’, three generations of women are haunted by the ghosts of war, while in ‘Light’, a father struggles to protect and empower the daughter he loves. And in the title story, in a world ravaged by flood and riven by class, experts have discovered how to ‘fix the equation of a person’ — with rippling, unforeseen repercussions.
What you have here are stories that will leave you desperate for more. The book showcases Arimah as a major new talent with a long literary career manifesting ahead of her.
An excerpt of this review recently appeared in the Sunday Times.
— Review by Nondumiso Tshabangu, editor of Africa’s Lit, the African literature-themed newsletter from Exclusive Books