Updated: Feb 4
This past week's shop pick was the short story collection WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY by Lesley Nneka Arimah. Short stories are something I love recommending to busy people with little time to fit reading into their day. It's a LOT easier to finish a fifteen page story in an hour -- a full length novel? Ha! (If you are someone who can read a full page novel in an hour, please contact me because I have a gig for you!)
WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY is a poignant collection of stories that feel almost like dream fragments, but really the stories are carefully cultivated scenes. These scenes are used throughout the book as a way to highlight the tensions between mothers and daughters, fathers and mothers, women and society, and all the consequences those relationships have on the characters in each story. Emotion is the driving force behind each story -- when Arimah introduces a character, you're immediately immersed into a version of that character's inner world.
Arimah's leads throughout the book are memorable, unique, and deeply complex. A proudly #ownvoice novel, Arimah draws on her own background as both Nigerian expat and Nigerian countrywoman to give color and culture to the young black woman leading each story in the book. Each story revolves around a woman whose flame burns a little too brightly for the world around them and deals with the consequences of such -- whether it be that their flame remains burning as brightly or exploring how it was dimmed. And because these characters seamlessly flow between Nigerian and western borders from one story to the next, the reader is allowed a window of understanding into how a variety of external conflicts from family to culture can diminish one's inner sense of self worth and belonging. Despite each woman's plight in the book being unavoidable, I still found myself rooting for them because ultimately, I saw myself in them. The world is a tough place to exist and I'm glad to see Arimah tackle that head on and produce a collection of stories that still elicits a deep sense of empathy for what the characters are experiencing.
WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY was a delightful read. In this collection of stories, Arimah's not beholden to genre -- while each story is a window into a different woman's life, the stories are told fluidly. Some are grounded in the real world of planes and science and politics, whereas others allow you to empathize with very human characters dealing with very human problems, but dive into worlds with magic objects and magical people. While each story feels connected, they're also separate scenes with their own lessons to impart and kept me turning the pages to find out what the next story held. Lesley Nneka Arimah, we can't wait to see what you write next!