What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah 

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from different short stories in the book


  • They dance around each other, boy waltzing forward with want, woman pirouetting away.


  • They knew that of the two of them, she might be able to soldier on without her daughter, but Enebeli would shrivel like a parched plant.
  • there is this thing that distance does where it subtracts warmth and context and history and each finds that they’re arguing with a stranger


  • I had violated her cardinal immigrant rule: Live quietly and above the law.
  • Now, when no frantic knocks sound, I begin to feel the sheepishness of a child who has hidden whom no one cares to find


  • the attention of an audience. Cry silent tears at first that build to anguished wails as all efforts to remain stoic come to naught.
  • Some people find it easy to be good when the going is good but lack the fortitude for hardship
  • If one is working with a child, use her on the women. Most will have children of their own, others will wish they did, so tears are guaranteed to elicit concern. Women should work on the men themselves, breasts a-heavin’, tears a-flowin’.
  • You never considered another lifestyle, tethered to your mother by familiarity and a notion of loyalty


  • The yarn baby lasted a good month, emitting dry, cotton-soft gurgles and pooping little balls of lint, before Ogechi snagged its thigh on a nail and it unraveled as she continued walking, mistaking the little huffs for the beginnings of hunger, not the cries of an infant being undone. By the time she noticed, it was too late, the leg a tangle of fiber, and she pulled the string the rest of the way to end it, rather than have the infant grow up maimed
  • Even the raffia children of that morning seemed like dirty sponges meant to soak up misfortune when compared with the china child to whom misfortune would never stick
  • A child that cost much brought much.
  • A rubbish baby. It cried, the friction sound so frantic and dry, Ogechi imagined a fire flickering from the child’s mouth
  • The second the words were out, they went back to work, as though the song were a sneeze to be excused and forgotten


  • Sleeping alone reminded her that before she’d been mother, she’d been wife, and lover before that, and the bed needed to become something else if she was to survive.
  • There was only so much a mother could ask a daughter to bear before that bond became bondage.
  • 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


  • he could move through a crowd of strangers and emerge on the other side with friends
  • He didn’t seem to mind how joy had become a finite meal she begrudged seeing anyone but herself consume
  • He always got what he wanted, always, and attributed it to ingenuity and perseverance, unaware of the halo of good fortune resting on his head


  • I would go and sit with her because everyone knows how old people enjoy the company of young people. They suck at us like vampires, or wilting flowers that require the sunshine of our youth
  • I felt jilted, and in that sly way infatuation can flip, the turning over of a mattress to hide an embarrassing stain, I began to despise her
  • Girls with fire in their bellies will be forced to drink from a well of correction till the flames die out.

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