Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Lesley Nneka Arima's "Who Will Greet You at Home" was originally published in the October 26, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

October 26, 2015Based solely on the image accompanying this week’s story, it looks like The New Yorker is giving us a Halloween treat! Lesley Nneka Arimah is a young author who is still working on her debut collection of stories and debut novel, so I’m anxious to see how you all respond to her work. To tease you, here is her first paragraph:

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 its 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 fibre, and she pulled the string the rest of the way to end it, rather than have the infant grow up maimed. If she was to mother a child, to mute and subdue and fold away parts of herself, the child had to be perfect.

Happy reading — and let us know what you think the comments below!

To start us off, here are Adrienne’s initial thoughts:

Not so amazing for me, but I am SURE someone will love it!  :-)

While the language of this story is lyrical — the opening paragraph is quite beautiful — this genre is not something I enjoy. I love the traditional Grimm’s fairy tales, but I do not enjoy newly created parables or fables (think Dan Miller or Paul Coehlo). They feel forced, and what I enjoy about fiction is the ease with which reality is addressed, even if in a hyperbolic way.

Maybe I am still reeling from the wonders of last week’s story (Ben Marcus’s “Cold Little Bird”), and the intriguing examination of fatherhood. Maybe. But this mythological invention of motherhood has less for me to link with, less to embrace. And because it is not a “common” folk tale, it did not take root in prior memories or schemas.

This story is vaguely reminiscent of “The Snow Child” but less beautiful, more harsh and unyielding. Universal themes and ideas are addressed.

Even still, the writing is delightful. It is animated, and I can see the story unfolding in my mind’s eye. The sensations for the reader of scene and character were well done.

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By |2015-10-19T16:34:32-04:00October 19th, 2015|Categories: Book Reviews, Lesley Nneka Arimah, New Yorker Fiction|5 Comments


  1. Trevor Berrett October 19, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I haven’t read this one yet, Adrienne, but I did love that first paragraph, very much due to the unexpected discoveries Arimah sets up for us :-) . I’m excited to see if I respond more positively than you did — I do like some modern fairy tales (thinking of the recent work of Robert Coover) but I do not like modern fables (thinking, as you did, of Paulo Coelho).

  2. Adrienne October 19, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    Good point, Trevor – the difference between the fairy tale and fable. There’s something didactic and soap-boxey in a fable/parable that just turns me off. Leave me alone, and let me and my imagination have some fun – like “Little Man” by Cunningham… Coover I will have to check out!

  3. washington rains October 21, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Perhaps we stay concentrated so much in the semi-stale optimism and occasional edgy “other” of the American literary scene that we sidestep a lot of other literary establishments that we don’t really find ourselves caring about. The Commonwealth Short Story Contest are one such thing. Nobody famous ever won it. Nobody ever became famous after winning it. I hope that changes. The Commonwealth, with their short story contest, have provided us with a new array of talented fiction writers who thankfully aren’t contaminated by Auto fiction’s strip-club glitter or the necessity to be unnecessarily Meta (*shudders at that thought*). Or any other supposedly current American trend in literature for that matter.

    Commonwealthwriters have been instrumental in getting talents like Michael Mendes and Eliza Robertson out and it’s only deserving to see young writers getting the recognition they deserve thereafter. Being someone who follows their contest, I was aware of her since last year. Her story, “Light”, which one the prize for Africa, made me laugh. A sweet story about a daughter growing up with her mother in another country, it showed Ms. Arimah’s brave prose battle out universal family hardships of distance.

    “Who Will Greet You at Home” resembles none of “Light”’s comedy, rather it’s sad and magical. Her characters live in a universe where babies are weaved from various materials according to the status/class of the person and breathed in life by the grandmother, after which it comes alive, flesh and all, after a year. The protagonist, Ogechi, wants a daughter. She makes one from yarn but then destroys it thinking it will grow “maimed”. She works as an assistant hairdresser with a Boss who likes to take the joy away from her, literally.

    The magic realist elements work fantastically in Ms. Arimah’s modern fairytale-esque story. It’s sad but it also has a sick sense of humor that pokes fun at mothers and them giving births to monsters. It plays out all the elements of a fairytale and even ends with an abrupt “Starting over” without being tedious one bit. Ms. Arimah’s stories seem to be built upon emotions that are commonplace but she manages to implement them in colorful thick strokes. The depth she manages to store in her stories are remarkable.

    This week’s story was dark and fun. Happy Halloween.

    RATING: 9/10

  4. Rosalind October 26, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Adrienne, I agree with your take on this story. My need for reality based fiction interferes with my appreciation of this art form, almost like modern art where I just don’t get it. I read the snow child and this piece reminded me why I didn’t like it, even though it is a creative novel.

  5. Greg November 2, 2015 at 5:08 am

    Thank you “Washington Rains” for helping me move outside my comfort zone and see the pleasures in this story.

    My favourite part of your post was: “Provided us with a new array of talented fiction writers who thankfully aren’t contaminated by Auto fiction’s strip club glitter…”

    This way of putting it really made me to have an open mind! Embarrassingly, I know how hard it is to remove that sticky stuff….

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