Short stories are a strange form of fiction. A well-developed narrative that has to arrive at its destination in a few pages, unlike a novel. Some arrive at the destination and others barely leave the starting point. What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky is a collection of thirteen short stories set mostly in the USA and Nigeria. All the stories have female protagonists. Females of all ages, in different settings, trying to navigate the world and the obstacles that confront them. From Buchi in Buchi Girls, who is navigating the hostilities that her own sister and brother-in-law throw at her and her daughters after they are forced to move in with them when she is widowed, to the protagonist in Windfalls whose mother raised her to be a prop in her scams. A venture founded on deceit and false alarms. In Light, Enebeli Okwara’s daughter is torn between both parents as the parents navigate the intricacies of parenting a young female teenager while the parents are continents apart. In Wild, Ada is forced back home to Nigeria from the USA because her mother considers her wayward and in need of a cultural reset. While staying with her aunt in Lagos, she teams up with her cousin Chinyere, whose own mother also resents her. Each mother thinks their niece will be a better example to their own daughter.
In Glory, Glorybetogod Akunyili faces the typical Nigerian single woman’s nightmare – parental nagging due to marital status. Not only do her parents pin their hopes and aspirations on her, Glorybetogod’s mother considers her incomplete until she brings a suitor home. This story highlights the fact that this Nigerian problem has crossed the border and is now present in the diaspora as it is back home.
One thing that is constant in What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky is conflict. Conflict in familial relationships, conflicts between the status quo and changes and conflict in historical settings. While What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky is critically acclaimed, I can’t claim to have been impressed by the collection. Very few of the stories grabbed my attention and stuck in my memory despite all being well written. There seem to have been more misses than hits. Of the few hits, I really enjoyed Glory and Buchi Girls.