What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky

by Lesley Nneka Arimah
April 2017 – Riverhead (US)

A dazzlingly accomplished debut collection exploring 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.

Lesley Nneka Arimah received her MFA at Minnesota State University. Stories from this collection have been published, or are forthcoming, in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Granta, Catapult, PANK Magazine, and Five Points. She was named the winner of the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize – Africa.


– A National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree
– Winner of the New York Public Library’s 2018 Young Lions Fiction Award
– Winner of the Kirkus Prize 2017
– Finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards 2018
– one of NPR’s “Best Books of the Year 2017”
– one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2017
– on BuzzFeed’s “31 Incredible New Books You Need To Read This Spring” (2017)
– on Goodreads’ 25 Big Books of Spring (2017)
– named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by Time Magazine, Elle, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Millions, Nylon, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune


“Strange and wonderful… a witty, oblique and mischievous storyteller, Arimah can compress a family history into a few pages and invent utopian parables, magical tales and nightmare scenarios while moving deftly between comic distancing and insightful psychological realism…her science fiction parables, with their ecological and feminist concerns, recall those of Margaret Atwood. But it would be wrong not to hail Arimah’s exhilarating originality: She is conducting adventures in narrative on her own terms, keeping her streak of light, that bright ember, burning fiercely, undimmed.”—New York Times Book Review

“[A] remarkable debut collection…Of all of Arimah’s considerable skills, this might be her greatest: She crafts stories that reward rereading, not because they’re unclear or confusing, but because it’s so tempting to revisit each exquisite sentence, each uniquely beautiful description…electrifying [and] defiantly original.”—NPR

“Stunning.”—O, the Oprah Magazine, “A Best Book of Spring”

“Arimah’s voice is vibrant and fresh, her topics equally timely and timeless…This is a slim, rare volume that left me compelled to press it into the hands of friends, saying, ‘You must read this.’”—The Washington Post

“Arimah has skill in abundance: the stories here are solid and impeccably crafted and strike at the heart of the most complicated of human relationships. Against a backdrop of grief for dead parents or angst over a lover, Arimah uses Nigeria as her muse…join[ing] everything from fabulism to folk tale…while also managing to create a wholly cohesive and original collection. Heralds a new voice with certain staying power.”—Kirkus (starred)

“A powerful and incisive debut . . . Arimah gracefully inserts moments of levity into each tale and creates complex characters who are easy to both admire and despise . . . this collection electrifies.”—Publisher’s Weekly (starred)

“[Arimah’s] stories reflect international breadth but also capture an expat’s sense of alienation…several pieces in this powerful debut collection already have garnered awards, and each story, tightly crafted and unique, will etch into your memory. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal (starred)

“A slender yet mighty short story collection that delivers one head-snapping wallop after another…Arimah’s emotional and cultural precision and authenticity undergird her most imaginative leaps. She flirts with horror fiction, presents a ghost story, and creates an arresting form of magic realism in sync with that of Shirley Jackson, George Saunders, and Colson Whitehead…stingingly fresh and complexly affecting.”—Booklist (starred)

“Arimah writes unsettling tales where science can save the world, but harm individuals that try to help, where political unrest and domestic abuse haunt women in circles, and where family can harm and help. We’ve been asking for dystopia and horror stories written by POC, and Arimah has delivered.”—BookRiot

“Mesmerizing…the announcement of an astonishing writer whose words dare the heart and mind to remain unstirred…With its fluid blend of dark humor, sorrow, and excursions into magic realism, some of Arimah’s stories feel like a jazzy cross between Octavia Butler and Shirley Jackson. Yet there is nothing derivative here. Arimah’s writing is deliciously unpredictable…Her words throb with truth.”—Boston Globe