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Who Will Greet You at Home
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2017 Short Story reads > 'Who Will Greet You At Home' by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria)

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Sheila | 80 comments As no one else has kicked off our discussion of the 2017 Caine Prize short list, I thought I'd jump right in here.

"Who will greet you at home" comes from Arimah's short story collection What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky

It seems an interesting choice to be shortlisted for the Caine because all the reviews I read about her collection have not cited this story, the exception being The New Porker who seem to rate it as well and featured an interview with her about it.

For me it was a strange story mixing myth with the desperate reality of women wanting children, either because they had found it impossible or because that would make them more accepted in amongst their peers. The central character Ogechi hides her empty belly on the bus as other women and girls sing about motherhood, the well-off woman who comes to Mama with the china baby may be one of the former who return to the myths of their native village in an attempt to conceive. Each of these women make an ephegy, a doll baby, which they have to nurture for a year, prior to giving birth.

I found Arimah's narrative a compelling portrayal of this desparation, despair, and hopefulness, surrounded by an evironment of family neglect, workplace expoliotation, and the struggles of the young to make way in the world.

That the different doll baby ephegies were made of different materials which seemed to suggest different qualities, perhaps those hoped for, dreaded in the real child was an ominous sign for me - how old wives' stories everywhere have implications.

How did people find the story? - Surreal? Creepy? Metephorical? What did you make of the association between the disappearence of the other hairdresser and the ephegy's warmth?


Sheila | 80 comments If you like her story I also found another, "Light", available online at https://granta.com/light and to listen to at http://www.commonwealthwriters.org/20...

"Light" comes from the same collection as "Who Will Greet You At Home"


message 3: by Anetq, Tour Operator & Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anetq | 260 comments Mod
Wow, that is a strange and mystical story. I feel there are a few allegories in there, but I'm not quite grasping all of them. It is definitely an interesting take on themes like childlessness, poverty, the hopes, dreams and fears attached to children, and then there is the macabre bit - to answer Sheila's question:
(view spoiler)
The ending seemed a little deterministic to me, it's a bit of a downer that one should just know one's place and not aspire to more. If that is the point?


Sheila | 80 comments That faltalism of the ending seems to me in keeping with much I saw and heard in Nigeria, particularly in connection with one's lot, the social and political climate, a feeling of powerlessness to change, nothing can be change. In my opinion religion doesn't help either in this regard and I include the more vodoo animist traditions in there. Having said all that the coun try managed to transition an elected leader to another elected leader for the first time just after I left, so peheps that is indicative of a change in attitude.
Back to the story, I suspect I missed a lot of the allegory there as well :) Still pondering that warmth in the ephegy!


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