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What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  11,276 ratings  ·  1,694 reviews
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 nig
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by Riverhead Books (first published October 19th 2015)
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Rafael Castillo I dunno why this is so funny to me. The level of obliviousness here.
sharon kemmer This story takes place in the future when mathematics and mathematicians occupy a magical/political place in the scheme of things. The man who falls f…moreThis story takes place in the future when mathematics and mathematicians occupy a magical/political place in the scheme of things. The man who falls from the sky is literally killed because he believed the stories about being able to fly and is figuratively about all the times we believe foolish things about the powers-that-be and what they convince us is true. So often the truth is counter to all common sense and experience ... and so often we seem to behave contrary to common sense and experience. Great short story on so many levels. I taught mathematics during my working years, so I especially enjoyed the symbolism of looking to mathematics (where there is an answer and if you just follow the steps you will get that answer too) for the answers in life. Herein there is an especially long and hard to follow algorithm which purports to allow us to overcome gravity (and the fact that some fool has fallen to his death, having believed this silliness, is a threat to the whole fantasy). I especially liked the narrator, someone who benefits from the nonsense, so is happy to believe in it and to support its silliness.(less)

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Average rating 4.11  · 
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Emily May
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
"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."

Of all the critically-acclaimed books I've been eager to read this year, I have to say What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky fell pretty low down on the list. The Goodreads ratings haven't been great and, honestly, it didn't sound as exciting as, say, Her Body and Other Parties. But I enjoyed it a whole lot more.

I can see why it might not appeal to e
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
With her luminous debut collection, What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, Lesley NNeka Arimah marks her richly deserved place in contemporary fiction. At the center of each impeccably written story, Arimah offers up a new kind of yearning--for love, for peace, for comfort, for home. Never have needful things been so gorgeously displayed.
Always Pouting
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This was a collection of short stories and at first I didn't quite catch on so I kept reading and I was like what the fuck is happening why do the characters keep changing. I really enjoyed all the stories in this collection though and that's quite rare. In fact I was kind of sad when the stories would end because I kept wanting to read more of all of them. I really really loved Who Will Greet You at Home, where a women creates a baby for herself from different materials but each child falls apa ...more
In these twelve powerful stories that embrace magical-realist elements while deploying a powerfully empathetic understanding of character and circumstance, Lesley Nneka Arimah explores how parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends, navigate conflicting cultures and struggle to reconcile conflicting desires, wants, and needs.

“There was only so much a mother could ask a daughter to bear before that bond became bondage.”

Going into to this I had no idea what to expect, but the aut
Elyse  Walters
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Library book- Overdrive- Audiobook.... narrated by Adjoa Andoh

I️ had no idea what to expect from this book when I️ - ‘took-a- chance’ and downloaded this ‘available now’ library book. I️ didn’t know it won a Kirkus Prize for fiction — I️ didn’t even know that it was ‘short stories’.

The very first thing I️ notice was how Delightful - AWESOME - Adjoa Andoh’s voice was to listen to.

At the very beginning- although LOVING THE NARRATOR’S VOICE....I️ was struggling following along —but before long -
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read, fiction
This is the best collection of short stories I have read so far. Granted, I haven't read that many short story collections in the first place, but still. I greatly enjoyed most of these and found myself wishing several of them were full length stories instead. See below for my ratings of each individual story.

The Future Looks Good - 5 stars
War Stories - 3.5 stars
Wild - 4 stars
Light - 4 stars
Second Chances - 4 stars
Windfalls - 5 stars
Who Will Greet You At Home - 3 stars
Buchi's Girls - 4 stars
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
I am still waiting for somebody smarter than me to explain what's in the water in Nigeria, why it has so many amazing writers. Now that I've listened to this debut story collection on audio, the question is that much more urgent. Arimah (born in the UK to Nigerian parents, grew up in Nigeria and elsewhere) writes beautifully about a variety of themes; a few stories didn't rise much above the level of anecdote, but most were just stunning.
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the heart of it, these short stories are human. Meaning that it’s messy and depressing.
You’re dealing with people and relationships that are complex and full of pain, unspoken words that have been left unsaid for far too long and translated into something. Good or bad.

It explores what it means to be human and what connects us and how we can do better and be better for one another. That the foundation of it all starts with yourself and your family and the ripple effects it has on society and
Tayari Jones
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful beautiful stories. Arimah is so very smart but also funny and big hearted.
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, the-shorts
Halloween shorts!

The mud and leaves baby, the porcelain baby and the hair baby:

This is a creepy story in the New Yorker magazine, free online at the New Yorker magazine. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Ogechi, an assistant hairdresser, accidentally unravels the leg of her baby made out of yarn, not noticing its small cries of protest. Not wanting the baby to grow up maimed, she unravels the rest of the baby and decides to try again later, to make a living baby out of some more durable
Richard Derus
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 4* of five


A shortlisted story for this very prestigious prize in African literature, which is limited to short fiction but has launched numerous of its sixteen previous recipients into the international literary stratoshphere, Arimah's story is post-apocalyptic climate change fiction set in a world where the entirety of North America and Europe are submerged, the remaining planet absorbing the white refugees
Resh (The Book Satchel)
I couldn't sleep until I finished the whole collection. This book is just fantastic. And I loved reading it in one night. You know the feeling when you think you need to sleep and you close the book and something whispers 'Just one more?' in your mind? Exactly!

The writing is gorgeous and the stories are lovely too. Lesley has the knack of shocking the reader at the end of her realistic stories and holding the reader in a trance at the end of the few magical realism stories. This is a straight 5
Raul Bimenyimana
Wonderful stories, each and every one of them. The twists in the stories, marvellous. The female protagonists in this collection are hurting, uncertain, they don't meet their expectations or those of the ones that are dear to them but carry with them strength and resilience. What a collection of gems this is!

I have been reading a good number of books dealing with grief this year and this one had a relatively fresh approach to it. Grief here is palpable, present with the characters not in tempora
This was my third short story collection this year and I must say it has cemented me as a gushing fan of the genre. Spectacular, emotional, poignant, moving collection of stories about love, parenting, growing up, marriage, self-awareness, empathy and she stuck a little scifi in with the title story. Squeee!!! Some of it was gut wrenching. But every story seemed highly emotionally charged.(view spoiler) ...more
Jan 06, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I wanted to love this book but struggled to get into it. This short story collection contains so many important things: strong and complex female characters, scenes of Nigerian family life both in Nigeria and in America, and innovative touches of magical realism. Lesley Nneka Arimah captures poignant moments throughout these stories, such as when a child's relationship with their overseas parent fades away, or when a woman from a difficult upbringing discerns that she wants more for her
Tori (InToriLex)

Content Warning: Violence, Domestic Abuse, Trauma, Child Abuse

I have been blessed by a master storyteller and I am grateful. There is so much beauty and hard realities in these stories. Through the use of magical realism and fantastical elements, characters inner turmoil are made physical. The characters are memorable and refreshingly flawed, so each story feels like a friend's you a secret. I enjoyed each and every story, they all held suspense, surprises and descriptions of family
I Be Reading
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I received an advanced copy of this book because Lesley and I follow each other on Twitter (where folks know I LOVE reading) and she asked if she could send me one to get my thoughts.

Now that that's out of the way, SWEET BUTTERY JESUS I WASN'T READY. I am still in my feelings about what I read and it's been over 12 hours since I finished. Although I absolutely LIVED for the forays she made into futurism, it was her brilliant writing about everyday scenarios and relationships that knocked me out.
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Woo hoo! This was fun. I discovered Lesley Nneka Arimah when reading Twenty Years of the Caine Prize for African Writing. Her wonderful story "Skinned" was among my favourites from that collection and I vowed to check out more of her. And boy, I'm glad that I did.

What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky is Lesley's brilliant debut collection featuring 12 short stories, all of which center around the theme of girlhood and womanhood. 4 out of the 12 stories I rated 5 stars... if that doesn't te
Cindy Burnett
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another bookstagrammer, @bookisshhh, and I read this book of short stories together and shared our thoughts about the collection on her Instagram page. I am glad we chose to read it as our shared read because I would not have chosen it on my own. What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky is Lesley Nneka Arimah’s debut collection and contains a varied mix of stories that generally succeed splendidly and occasionally fall short. The title story is by far the outstanding tale in the collection; I ...more
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What the heck did I just read?! This was just about the strangest story I've ever ingested, but it was a powerful, beautiful strange. It was only 15 pages long, but the author said all she needed to say in those 15 pages. Gorgeous and deep. Consider my thoughts provoked.
Alice Lippart
Richard Derus
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5* of five

UPDATE 7 November 2017: This deserving collection has won a 2017 Kirkus Prize!

This edition's review is coming on my blog, Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud, during Booksgiving! That's my book-gifting guide for the perplexed from 24 November to 24 December, if you're wondering.

This title also appears in the semi-final round of the Goodreads Choice Awards and I strongly encourage you to vote it through to the next round! Please? Pretty please with real, delicious sugar on top?
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
These are concentrated, enchanting bursts of stories - mostly about the lives of women and their daughters or mothers. Some are grounded and sharp-edged, others fabulous and whimsical. So good.

Short stories, especially from debut authors, seem to me like an opportunity for writers to pull on different shoes and walk around in them for a while. A low risk way to play with different genres and voices without the burden of committing to an entire novel.
I can see Arimah doing that in this 12 story collection. There were stories that I thought had almost N.K.Jemisinesque fantasy elements. Particularly, What it means when a man falls from the sky and What is a Volcano . The former
Most of these dozen stories are set in a recognizable Nigeria, with past events like the Biafran War contrasting with real and imagined future scenarios. The protagonists are generally young women poised on the brink of wildness and trying to decide between what’s sensible and what they really want from life. Three of the stories employ magic realism to infuse everyday situations with novel possibilities. There are such wonderful, natural turns of phrase throughout that the narratives rollick al ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
As Nakia said, "the first story went off like a firecracker out the gate." And, this collection of short stories ended with a bang! In this book, no two short stories are like the other in terms of plot, pace or tone. This collection is not only a testament of Lesley's writing prowess but a display of her ingenuity.

Also, Lesley's writing pulled me all the way in! It said, "Girl, lean in. No, a little closer. Closer." Her words sucked me right in & made me feel everything that her characters fel
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it

4.5 stars. This collection of stories is out of this world - literally! I really loved Arimah’s wild imagination and the finesse with which she created worlds I never knew could exist. This collection embodies how a short story collection should be: ORIGINAL, unpredictable, startling and out-of-the-box.

Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
[6/6/19: It appears GR has combined these reviews due to removal of one of the stories as a separate GR book. The first paragraph was my review of the story "Who Will Greet You at Home" that I believe was published online before the short story collection, and the link I included was removed. The part after GR added "Merged review" is my review of the collection.]

This is so fresh and inventive and ... scary. It resonates like a folk tale and reminds me of that feeling when you wake up from a ni
Masterpiece collection of short stories

I am in awe at two things:
1. That this is a debut collection because the writing is absolutely captivating and profound.
2. That is took me two years to read this collection, I cannot stop kicking myself.

What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky features 12 short stories, majority of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Each story covers various themes but at the heart of each story is the stunning writing. Relationships, immigration, mother-daughter relation
Alana Benjamin
This short story collection is masterful! This is probably my favourite fiction debut of 2017.

The author's sheer wit and charm shines through in every story. Although most of the stories are speculative fiction and within magical realism genre, each story is very much relatable and you fall very deep into the story. The stories are haunting and intriguing. I have thought about these stories days after reading them.

I, especially, love how each story is about a girl or a woman navigating their w
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Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up wherever her father was stationed for work, which was sometimes Nigeria, sometimes not.

Her work has received grants and awards from Commonwealth Writers, AWP, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Jerome Foundation and others. She currently lives in Minneapolis.

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