You can create a fantasy of what you want me to be, but you cannot make me live that fantasy of yours.



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.

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.


This book is a collection of short stories which centers on female protagonists and their relationships with their parents, how they are raised and how these dynamics shape who they become. My favorite stories from the book are Light, Wild, The future looks good, and War stories.

What would happen if you couldn’t forget, if every emotion from every person whose grief you’d eaten came back up? It could happen if something went wrong with the formula millions and millions of permutations down the line. A thousand falling men landing on you.

Lesley Nneka Arimah, What it means when a man falls from the sky.

In Light, there is a struggle of what the child should be and not what she really wants to be, by both her parents.
The mother, studying for her Masters abroad, insists her daughter must appear and be in a certain way, in a way peculiar to the westerners, while the father has a conflicting opinion. This doesn’t go well with the daughter, who wants to live her life by her rules. Enebeli, the father, does not want to lose his daughter, but doesn’t know what to do to keep her too, and so the story slips into a painfully sad ending. There is nothing that can equate a solid parent-child relationship, so when it is lacking, the child does not know where to turn. So she withdraws from both adults, and resorts to her own mind, and does only what she wants to do, and not what is expected of her by both parents to do.

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.

Lesley Nneka Arimah, What it means when a man falls from the sky.

In Wild, a single mother who’s scared her rebellious daughter would go wild if left in America, sends her to Nigeria to go stay with her aunt and cousin. But does Nigeria really have a positive effect on her? It only takes a single night out, for everything to crumble between her and her cousin.

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. I stepped into view and threw something of my own.

Lesley Nneka Arimah, What it means when a man falls from the sky.

In War stories, a father admonishes her daughter over a game of chess and tells her stories about the war. Her daughter who doesn’t understand the connection between her offences and the war stories would think they don’t make sense, till one day, they do.

There is this thing that distance does where it subtracts warm and context and history and each finds that they are arguing with a stranger.

Lesley Nneka Arimah, What it means when a man falls from the sky.

In The future looks good, Ezimma does her best in trying to save her sister from an abusive relationship, but maybe at the end, she’s the one that needs saving. I love the style Lesley adopted in this particular story. It starts by revealing a character, Ezimma, who fumbles with the door. She’s focused on the door in front of her, without knowing what’s coming behind. Then a backstory is being told from there. A story about the very beginning, her parents’ first meeting, the war, and everything that followed after.

someone should have known that you do not take small things from small men.

Lesley Nneka Arimah, What it means when a man falls from the sky.

Her elder sister Biafra, who everyone calls Bibi, because who names their child after a country that doesn’t even exist any longer, is as stubborn as their mother. Ezimma grows up in the shadow of Bibi, like she literally does everything to meet up with Bibi’s standards, but all her efforts are never enough. She cannot be Bibi, she cannot be like her, and she cannot even have what Bibi has. She can’t have pads, can’t play with Bibi’s toys, can’t walk to school with Bibi and her friends. She always yearns for her sister’s love, and when Bibi meets Godwin who treats her badly, Ezimma does all she can to save her sister.

You shouldn’t be stopping a person from feeling natural hardships. That’s what it means to be human.

Lesley Nneka Arimah, What it means when a man falls from the sky.

But Ezimma is still fumbling with the keys, and would never know what’s behind her, or what will happen to her from the back, till it happens. This is a very interesting short stories collection, written beautifully, humorously. But I didn’t really enjoy the rest stories like I did these ones. The stories are quite intriguing, but somehow it takes lots of efforts and rereading to flow with the storylines and feel every letter and word. In all, it’s a really great book and I’ll recommend you read it sometime. I’ll rate it as 4/5.

Have you read the book? What do you feel about it? Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter, follow me on all social media platforms and share with your friends.
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