Book Review: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames

5/5 Stars

We’re gonna start with a quote and end with a quote:
“This was the trouble with emigration – it dismantled the patriarchy. Because really, what did Assunta, or any woman, need a husband for, when she did every goddamn thing herself?”

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna is a fictionalized account of the life of the narrator’s grandmother, Stella Fortuna, and her seven (or eight) “deaths” throughout her long life. This story spans a hundred years, starting in the little village of Ievoli in Calabria, Italy, and ending in Hartford, Connecticut.
What drew me to this story were the Italian aspects – my father is Italian and my grandparents are Italian immigrants. While I am only half Italian, I grew up with strong Italian influences. Pasta every Sunday, my dad speaking Italian to us every day, the concept of family being the center of everything, etc. This is precisely why I connected to this story so much, I honestly felt I was learning more about my ancestors, and also my dad.
Even further, Stella Fortuna is a very well-written historical fiction that discusses what life was like in rural Italy during World War I and World War II, what it was like to emigrate to Ellis Island, and life in the United States’ east coast during the 1940’s – present day. It was intensely interesting and I was completely captivated by the story. While historical fiction was the major genre, there was also a hint of magical realism – after all, look at the title! Our protagonist suffers seven (or eight) deaths during her lifetime.
I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone. As stated, the writing is captivating and sound, the story is compelling, the characters are nicely fleshed out, and there is a lot to learn within the pages of this book. 🙂
Now, another quote that is just so wonderfully Italian:
” The first time I brought my husband to meet her, Auntie Tina told me admiringly, ‘He eats so nicely.’ This is a thing Italian grandmothers say about men who don’t yell at them during dinner.”

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