A stunning story with a rich Italian history. The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames was a true treat. The story is a fictionalized account of two sisters who are alive today, Stella and Tina, written by a family member.
“This is the story of Mariastella Fortuna the Second, called Stella, formerly of Ievoli, a mountain village of Calabria, Italy, and lately of Connecticut, in the United States of America. Her life stretched over more than a century, and during that life she endured much bad luck and hardship. This is the story how she never died.”
The book spans from the tiny mountain village in Calabria, Italy and ends in Connecticut, USA. There is so much to unpack with a lifespan of over 100 years. It covers the hardships of WWI and WWII, life out in the country, poverty in both Italy and the US. It explores the special bond between two sisters, whose personalities are quite opposite and their struggle to break free of cultural norms.
“Family memory is a tricky thing; we repeat some stories to ourselves until we are bored of them, while others inexplicably fall away. Or maybe not inexplicably; maybe some stories, if remembered, would fit too uncomfortably into the present family narrative.”
This story does require a trigger warning: psychological and physical abuse, rape, and death are very present. I believe that they are necessary truths that need to be included into the narrative, because that is the story of this family. It shows the struggles and dark times and how they overcame so much.
“Was she going to let it happen? Let her whole life be the choices other people made for her? But she had never made a choice for herself—that had been her mistake. She’d never known what it was she wanted out of life, only what she didn’t want.”
The shifting family dynamics and adjusting as new immigrants during the second world war really made this story unique. There is so much that could be said about this book, but it’s something you need to read yourself to fully gain the scope.
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna is a remarkable story of strength and triumph.