The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna

Written by Juliet Grames
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

As the book title gives away, this one-of-a-kind, sweeping novel is the story of how an Italian immigrant, Mariastella Fortuna the Second, also known as Stella Fortuna, came close to death seven (or eight) times up until the time of her actual death.

Stella is born in a small village in Italy in the early part of the 20th century, as the second Stella in the family. The first, perfect child died as a toddler; being named after a deceased child haunts Stella her whole life… literally, as she believes that her late sister’s ghost is jealous of her and wants her dead.

When her tempestuous father goes to America to seek his fortune and seems to have forgotten all about his family, Stella, her mother, and three younger siblings struggle with poverty, though they are much happier without him. When the father suddenly demands that the family return with him to Hartford, Connecticut, Stella has to adjust to living in a new country as well as living with a volatile father. When love appears in her life, Stella does everything in her power to avoid marriage.

A long-held rivalry with her younger sister comes to a head when the women are entering their golden years, the consequences of which affect the entire family. It is not until about midpoint in the book that the reader learns the identity of the narrator, who is trying to make sense of the complex, puzzling personality that is Stella.

The book delves into family dynamics, the difficulties faced by immigrants, and forgiveness. Spanning close to a century and two continents, this book represents a charming, unique and wholly original new voice in fiction.