Short Stories 366:116 — “Second Chances,” by Lesley Nneka Arimah

coverThe tales in What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky cross through a few different genres throughout the collection, but “Second Chances” landed in my favourite place: somewhere between spec fic and contemporary. Here we meet a woman at a perfectly benign moment in her life: she calls her father to come help her buy a bed (and specifically, needs his financial help a bit), but he arrives with her mother. Now, that doesn’t sound particularly unusual, until the daughter lets the reader in on a fact: her mother is dead.

What follows is a story of family, and especially mothers-and-daughters or sisters (a recurring theme in the collection), and specifically things left unsaid and unhealed after anger and disappointment. Getting back to the mother’s last moment’s alive is a slow wind, and as the daughter and her younger sister and her father all react in very different ways to the return/resurrection/revisitation of the mother, the daughter places the moment from which her mother has returned: a single photograph, and begins searching for it.

Ultimately a tale drawing on regret and pain and the impossibilities in the path of finding peace after someone with whom you have regret is gone, “Second Chances” walks a line right up to hopelessness and pain, but doesn’t quite leave the reader hanging there, instead ending with just enough to consider there could be healing, or their might be relief, or—maybe—forgiveness, if there’s any to be had of any meaning. The speculative elements of the photograph and the revisitation align to this course, and it’s wonderfully done.

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