Evocative, playful, subversive, and incredibly human, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky heralds the arrival of a prodigious talent with a remarkable career ahead of her
A dazzlingly accomplished debut collection 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 National Magazine Award finalist for The New Yorker, 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 does It really Mean When A Man Falls From The Sky?
Book Review by Jay
Masterfully Creative, Beautifully Written
I first heard of Ms. Arimah when LeVar Burton read a story from this book on his new podcast. I thought it was a good story (What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky is the story’s name and the title of this book of her stories) but, as the days went on since I heard him read the story, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I ordered this book. From hearing interviews with Ms. Arimah, she has a rich backstory and an amazingly active imagination and she’s not afraid to write weaknesses into the protagonists in her stories. A lot of the stories in this book are not ones I can relate to directly since I’m a 47 year old male and many of the stories are about young women; however, this author can describe a character’s feeling or establish a character trait (or flaw) in such creative ways that I don’t believe it matters if you can instantly relate to the character. Part of reading new literature is to be exposed to something new and learn from it, and I found that after I read each story, they each stayed with me for a few days as I thought more and more about them. I find myself going back and reading many of them again and, even in the shortest stories, I find something new.
By the way, I could envision the title story being made into a miniseries or ongoing science fiction series. Ms. Arimah builds a fantastically vivid future world in a 20 page story. I can only imagine what she could do if she were given the chance to let her imagination flow on a full book devoted to this world, or a series. The powers that be at Amazon, HBO or Netflix need to option this story for a live action medium.
“Strange and wonderful… a witty, oblique and mischievous storyteller, Arimah can compress a family history into a few pages and invent utopian parables, magical tales and nightmare scenarios while moving deftly between comic distancing and insightful psychological realism…her science fiction parables, with their ecological and feminist concerns, recall those of Margaret Atwood. But it would be wrong not to hail Arimah’s exhilarating originality: She is conducting adventures in narrative on her own terms, keeping her streak of light, that bright ember, burning fiercely, undimmed.” –New York Times Book Review
“[A] remarkable debut collection…Of all of Arimah’s considerable skills, this might be her greatest: She crafts stories that reward rereading, not because they’re unclear or confusing, but because it’s so tempting to revisit each exquisite sentence, each uniquely beautiful description…electrifying [and] defiantly original.” –NPR
“Stunning.” –O, the Oprah Magazine, “A Best Book of Spring”
“Arimah’s voice is vibrant and fresh, her topics equally timely and timeless…This is a slim, rare volume that left me compelled to press it into the hands of friends, saying, ‘You must read this.’” –The Washington Post
“Arimah writes unsettling tales where science can save the world, but harm individuals that try to help, where political unrest and domestic abuse haunt women in circles, and where family can harm and help. We’ve been asking for dystopia and horror stories written by POC, and Arimah has delivered.” –BookRiot“Mesmerizing…the announcement of an astonishing writer whose words dare the heart and mind to remain unstirred…With its fluid blend of dark humor, sorrow, and excursions into magic realism, some of Arimah’s stories feel like a jazzy cross between Octavia Butler and Shirley Jackson. Yet there is nothing derivative here. Arimah’s writing is deliciously unpredictable…Her words throb with truth.” -Boston Globe
“Glittering.” –The Daily Beast
“It’s hard to stress how well written each of the short stories in this collection are—how striking and memorable they truly are—without resorting to clichés. Arimah is truly a master of the form and in What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, she displays that mastery with such compelling self-assuredness and with such creative empathy, that it’s hard to put the collection down until you’ve read and re-read every story.” –Jezebel
“Readers of The New Yorker will recognize Lesley Nneka Arimah’s name, as “Who Will Greet You at Home,” one of her pieces, was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Now, in her first book of short stories, the talented author will deservedly reach a wider audience. Prepare yourself for one of the best collections so far.” –Essence
“Chilling, dreamy, often breathtaking…Arimah’s stories are witty, poetic and searing, full of flawed-but-lovable characters and images that make you reread passages. The author has a keen sense of fantasy and the absurd, but her work is rooted in experiences and impulses that will seem all too familiar.” –The Seattle Times
“Arimah blends magical realism and sci-fi elements for a truly unique set of stories about family, friendship, and home that will leave you hungry for more of her work.”–Cosmopolitan
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About the Author
Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and the United States. Her work has received grants and awards from Commonwealth Writers, the Elizabeth George Foundation, The MacDowell Colony, Breadloaf and others. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 and is the recipient of an O’Henry Award. Her debut collection, What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, won the Kirkus Prize and the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and was a finalist for the Aspen Words Literary Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Leonard Prize. She currently lives in Minneapolis.
Originally published: 4 April 2017
Genre: Literary fiction