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Maya Gittelman

There are many comparisons one could make to describe Lesley Nneka Arimah. She sometimes treads similar ground to contemporary Nigerian writers, and at times her voice shares resonance with contemporary Western writers. Yet this ultimately feels like a disservice, because her writing and this collection is in a league entirely of its own.

The work within WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY is nothing less than game-changing. Arimah is a sheer expert in her craft, and her stories shimmer with unique lyricism and gut-wrenching poignancy. I am grateful for the precedent I know she is setting, for the emerging canon of prescient and contemporary short stories that has been strengthened by her voice, and for the very existence of this work, which in itself delights and inspires.

"Arimah is a sheer expert in her craft, and her stories shimmer with unique lyricism and gut-wrenching poignancy."

Each of the stories in this collection stands out and sings on its own. They range from legend to speculative fiction to the realm of the fantastic, from ghost story to tragedy to the complexities of the everyday familiar.

In “What Is a Volcano?” Arimah envisions the mythic origins of a natural phenomenon. “Second Chances” explores the strange ways in which grief can manifest and torment a family. In the title story, she crafts a world that could easily and soon be ours, ...

There are many comparisons one could make to describe Lesley Nneka Arimah. She sometimes treads similar ground to contemporary Nigerian writers, and at times her voice shares resonance with contemporary Western writers. Yet this ultimately feels like a disservice, because her writing and this collection is in a league entirely of its own.

The work within WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY is nothing less than game-changing. Arimah is a sheer expert in her craft, and her stories shimmer with unique lyricism and gut-wrenching poignancy. I am grateful for the precedent I know she is setting, for the emerging canon of prescient and contemporary short stories that has been strengthened by her voice, and for the very existence of this work, which in itself delights and inspires.

“Arimah is a sheer expert in her craft, and her stories shimmer with unique lyricism and gut-wrenching poignancy.”

Each of the stories in this collection stands out and sings on its own. They range from legend to speculative fiction to the realm of the fantastic, from ghost story to tragedy to the complexities of the everyday familiar.

In “What Is a Volcano?” Arimah envisions the mythic origins of a natural phenomenon. “Second Chances” explores the strange ways in which grief can manifest and torment a family. In the title story, she crafts a world that could easily and soon be ours, in which pain is tangible and calculable, to devastating effect. At the heart of every story, Arimah investigates belonging, ancestry, love, human connection and Nigerian identity. Her voice is rich with magical realism and incisive, contemporary vision. Opening with “The Future Looks Good,” Arimah sets herself up as a no-holds-barred visionary. A slender volume that is nevertheless clear and powerful, this book is filled with heart, rage and unapologetic clarity, evoked with delicious writing.

WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY is exquisite and startling. These works are so urgent and necessary, but also timeless, enviably original and built to endure. Arimah excels in the short story form, and I cannot wait to read more from her. I am grateful for this disparate, fluid collection of voices, which is at once lovely and shattering.

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