“Do you know why I had to listen to Uncle Dickson? Because we are destitute. Because your father was a fool and, yes, money is everything. Because the consequences of disrespecting a man like Dickson are always disproportionate to the sin. A grenade in retaliation for a slap. A world undone for a girl’s mistake” – Buchi’s Girls
This is one book I have had on my shelf for quite a while and if you have followed this blog for some time you will know that I am just beginning to warm-up to reading short stories so it was wayyy down on my TBR. However, when I heard the author who has been honored by numerous awards was going to have a book reading and signing event on Sunday August 11th, I was excited to attend and attending meant reading the book (I dislike attending readings for books I haven’t read).
As usual, it was a delight to be in the same space with such an acclaimed author and listening to her speak about her writing and this collection in particular helped me to put some of the stories I didn’t feel I connected much with in perspective. Lesley also highlighted her journey as a writer and gave really good advise to budding/aspiring writers who look up to her and her work. I must admit that attending this book reading made me understand the collection in a better way which led me to come back to my review of the book (which I had written before the event) and change a few things.
My thoughts on the book: When I put this book down at the end, I had to spend some time to ponder on the 13 stories I had just read. Some of which I spent more time trying to get my head around the whys and hows but ultimately it was worth my time.
What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky is a collection of short stories that centers mostly around mother – daughter relationships amidst other themes. The first story in the collection ‘The Future Looks Good’ had me with my mouth wide open in shock at the end and after that I couldn’t stop reading the book which was a quick one for me. I was particularly captivated by the story ‘Second Chances’ and I think I can pick it as my best in the collection but I personally connected more with the story ‘Light’ as the mother of a teenager who travels quite often for work and does the occasional chastising via video calls. I find myself struggle with the guilt of being away from her often and try to find better ways to bond with her which I have come to learn that I have to be deliberate about.
A common theme in the collection is the conflicts between mothers and daughters, and how, if they are unhealthy, they will cause deep and long-lasting dysfunction. As expected, this theme has given me plenty to think about in my relationships as a daughter (my mum passed on last year) and a mother to two wonderful daughters.
I also loved reading others stories like Windfalls, Buchi’s Girls, Wild, War Stories, Redemption and Glory. I am intrigued by the writer’s mind and her writing style, quite literary but nice to read and well written.
There were a few stories that didn’t really make the cut for me particularly ‘What is a Volcanoe?’especially as I have never been a fan of speculative fiction but ultimately it was a good collection to read. I am beginning to find myself being drawn towards reading short story collections these days as they are quick to read and give you the same satisfaction you may get from reading a longer form.
I also went ahead to read her short story which won the 2019 Caine Prize “Skinned” and I found it very thought provoking and engaging. I would have loved it to be in this collection. In my opinion, it is one of her best.
I enjoyed reading this book as it was a quick read with a good number of stories that I will be keeping in my mind for a long time. I rate it a 3.5 stars and I recommend it to people looking for a quick read or love reading short stories.
Published: April 4th 2017 by Riverhead Books
Genre: Fiction – Literary/Speculative (Short Stories)
Purchase @ www.amazon.com/whatitmeans
The Author: 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.