Motherhood, whether tender or terrible, is touched upon often in Lesley Nneka Arimah’s spellbinding collection. Although What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky is all killer, no filler, I’ve chosen ‘Who Will Greet You at Home’ as my stand-out story. In a matriarchal society, young women must craft their children from found materials, like yarn, raffia or clay, in the hope that their mothers will breathe life into their handmade effigies. Before that can happen, they must carry these dolls like babes in arms and keep them safe for a full year before there’s any hope of them coming to life. The narrator, Ogechi, struggles with the task of self-made motherhood, but after multiple false-starts she finds success with a somewhat unusual material. It’s a story about the pressure on women to be mothers, and to be perfect mothers at that, with perfect children, as well as covering themes of fertility and infant mortality.
First published in The New Yorker, October 2015, and collected in What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, Tinder Press 2018