The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna: A Novel
by Juliet Grames
Hardcover- $15.69

From Calabria to Connecticut: a sweeping family saga about sisterhood, secrets, Italian immigration, the American dream, and one woman's ...

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  "GREAT DEBUT" by Silversolara (see profile) 05/07/19

Stella was the second child of Assunta and Antonio Fortuna and the second Stella because the first Mariastella died from influenza when she was an infant.

Assunta had a difficult life and a cruel husband. He was not nice to her, would leave for months at a time and not send her money, but she survived and did everything herself and took care of her children. Assunta didn't have a happy life except for her children.

THE SEVEN OR EIGHT DEATHS OF STELLA FORTUNA tells the tale of the lives of the author's family and specifically Stella and Tina who were the best of friends as they grew up in Italy and as they aged in America until the final accident happened.

The accidents that caused Stella to almost die were quite unbelievable. Stella was definitely an amazing person to say the least. Her mother, Assunta, was also quite remarkable.

If you are Italian or simply know an Italian, you will want to read this book for many reasons. There are so many references to things that happened in my Italian family that made the read more special - especially the food aspect and the Italian expressions used.

THE SEVEN OR EIGHT DEATHS OF STELLA FORTUNA should be read if only to learn about the difficult lives of Europeans, the immigration process, their struggles in America, their work ethic, their schooling, their traditions, their customs, their family loyalty, and their religious beliefs.

This book has feelings and emotions oozing out of it and has you living the lives along with the characters. The characters will grow on you, you will cry and laugh along with them, and at times be horrified.

The writing in this book is beautiful and descriptive and is an outstanding debut.

Marvelous, magnificent, original, and impressive are some adjectives to describe this book.

You will not want to put it down. 5/5

This book was given to me as an ARC by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

  "the 7 or 8 deaths of stella fortuna" by Carolynr (see profile) 06/29/19

this is not a bad story == I didn't connect with the characters all that well, so for me I don't see it as a 4-5 star book. But not a bad read.
a bit slow for a book club recommendation, but it might appeal to some

  "Although I read almost half, I was unable to finish it." by thewanderingjew (see profile) 10/27/19

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, Juliet Grames, author; Lisa Flanagan, narrator
I did not finish this book. It is rare for me to give up on a book, however, when I began dreading the return to it, I decided it was time. After almost half, I gave up. Although the narrator did a fine job with each of the characters, the subject matter kept putting me to sleep. I had to listen to the same parts over and over again because they were tedious and redundant which made the almost 17 hours of audio seem unending. The book was about the life of the second Stella Fortuna, the first one having died in early childhood. The second always seemed to be able to cheat a death that would have taken others. It was about how this Stella often made crucial errors, how she was filled with remorse for her mistakes, how she vowed it would not happen again, but it did, how her life and the life of her family played out in an unfair world in which they felt powerless.

Stella’s father, Antonio, was an abusive and selfish man. He believed that women were beneath him in stature and were there to serve his needs. He had traveled to America to make his fortune, leaving the family behind in Italy. He visited infrequently. After many years, he still felt loyalty to his wife, Assunta, and to his children. He wanted to bring them to America so that they could be reunited. After he managed to figure out the system and work out the appropriate paper work, they finally arrived. One of his children, Luigi, had never even met his father, having been born after his last visit home. Antonio was now far more worldly than the rest of his family and noticed the differences.

The first Stella Fortuna had died because of the family’s poverty, their inability to get the appropriate care for a sick child, and the selfishness of the elite rich who would not help them, although it was within their power. The second Stella was unsure of herself, angry or unhappy most of the time. Also, because of her ignorance about many things in life, she often made poor choices. Although she seemed to always survive against all odds, she seemed to be plagued with misfortune. Her life was fraught with moments of confusion and disaster.

After each disastrous occurrence, Stella always reprimanded herself, but still, she seemed to make the mistakes again, regardless. It was because of her ability to survive death so many times that she was relied upon to be the strength and guidance in the family. Her ability to survive dangerous situations which might have felled others, seemed to give Stella power and an odd kind of stature. Although she sometimes seemed to possess a great deal of arrogance, at times, she also seemed distrustful and lacked self confidence. She often doubted her own judgment and that generally resulted in failures of judgment.

To Stella (or perhaps the author), men were always waiting for their prey. They were eager to take advantage of women in any way they could and to cheat all those who were weaker than they. Although she was taken advantage of by the system and by evil people, and although it was really not her fault since she was not experienced in the outside world, having come from a tiny little Italian village, Ievoli in Calabria, and really had no worldly experience, I was not able to admire Stella for the efforts she made on behalf of herself and her family. I grew impatient with the bleakness of the novel and did not want to read about another tragic situation, avoided or not.

Still, all of the above should not have turned me off the book because a reader does not have to like the characters. The prose flowed well and seemed really well done in terms of the use of language, but perhaps it was the repetitious nature of the narrative that kept me thinking, oh no, not again each time I read of another possible disaster in the making. The book, in one way, was trying to present the difficulties immigrants face, especially when faced with bureaucracies that they don’t understand or are not familiar with, and it stressed the effect those traumatic experiences have on the family as it tries to melt into the fabric of the society. Beyond that, and Stella’s near death misses, I found it tedious. I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel coming in the future.

There was a redeeming feature in the novel, however, although it was repetitious and dark, the writing was clear and concise, and the translation seemed to accurately and clearly represent the author’s intent.

  "" by MarlaTapper (see profile) 04/02/20

  "Sweeping tale chronicling the lives of an Italian immigrant family" by zodejodie4 (see profile) 12/26/20

3.5 Stars. Sweeping & epic in scope, this is a fascinating read chronicling the experiences of an Italian immigrant family. I enjoyed this glimpse at what it may have been like for some of my own Italian ancestors.

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