When I tell you Stella Fortuna was a special girl, I hope you aren’t thinking small-town special. Other people would underestimate Stella Fortuna during her long life, and not one of them didn’t end up regretting it. *******************
A sprawling 20th century saga of a young woman with a fire inside her which cannot be put out, for fans of Elena Ferrante, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, All the Light We Cannot See and Brooklyn.
By turns a family saga, a ghost story, and a coming-of cranky-old-age tale, Juliet Grames’s THE SEVEN OR EIGHT DEATHS OF STELLA FORTUNA lays bare the costs of migration and patriarchal values, but also of the love and devotion that can sustain a family through generations.
The book tells the story of Stella Fortuna, born into rural poverty in a mountainside Calabrian village in the early 20th century. After being abandoned by their father, who had left to seek his fortune in L’America, Stella grew up with her beloved mother Assunta, her brother Giuseppe and her sister Tina. Tough, vivacious, and fiercely loyal, the sisters were always inseparable, going on to support each other through immigration, marriage, children, loss – and the seven (or eight, depending how you count them) near-death experiences Stella suffered throughout her life.
Beginning in their childhood with the time she was burned by frying oil (“the eggplant attack”), Assunta became convinced that her eldest daughter was cursed, a victim of the Evil Eye or a malevolent ghost. But after Stella woke up from ‘The Accident’, an eighth brush with death which robbed her of a large portion of her memories, it was Tina who she refused to speak to. Now, despite living across the street from each other, the sisters have not spoken in thirty years.
Determined to solve the mystery of this falling out, it’s up to the family historian to unravel the life and deaths of Stella Fortuna, to connect the inexplicable dots in her dramatic story, and to suggest, finally, redemption of the battle-scarred and misunderstood woman who has lived her life with a fire inside her which could not be put out.
‘A compulsive, huge-hearted novel about family, home and how women move through the world; you don’t read this book, you live it.’ Erin Kelly, author of He Said / She Said