The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 May 2019

Member Reviews

I read this book with breaks. It was OK reading, but I wished more from it. Perhaps the title has so intriguing it overpowered the plot. I liked the book and I would recommended. I just wished more from it at times.
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Thank you to Ecco for giving me an opportunity to read this for an honest review. 
I did not end up finishing this novel, unfortunately. I could only make it about 30% of the way through before finally putting it down. The story wasn't something I would normally pick up anyway, but I thought I would give it my best shot. I know there is someone out there that will absolutely LOVE this. It's an interesting concept, and it had a lot of potential.
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Oh my goodness. This was so grim, and depressing, and, frankly, reading it felt like an ordeal. I so wanted it to be over, but it just seemed to go on and on, with one more horrible thing happening after another. You know, I get the idea: the lives of young Italian women in the country in the early 20th century could be awful, and emigrating to the US might not make anything better. But, seriously, the unrelenting dreariness of this book really wore me down. Unlike other reviewers. I did not mind the way the narrator occasionally interrupted the story with a bit of framing. But the grimness of the tale combined with the fact that I did not like any of the characters very much makes it hard for me to recommend this one.
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Book rating 2.5 stars

The beginning of the book foretold several of the almost deaths of Stella Fortuna, then went back to the beginning; the days of when her mother was young and met her future husband, in rural Italy. This part of before Stella, and even up through some of her childhood was an interesting story. The place and time was solid and you were right there with this poor family and feeling for them and their plight, especially when we started having the near deaths of Stella.

Then as the family grew and Stella got older, perhaps somewhere when they immigrated to America, the story just sort of lost it's way. It got bogged down and belabored over the fact that Stella did not want to marry, she wanted to keep her virginity. Of course she also didn't want to go to a convent, that also would be too stifling for her independence. Yet her overbearing, strict and uncaring father had insisted and kept insisting.

There were certain aspects which became the central focus that was more than uncomfortable. The beginning about her almost deaths was interesting. This foray into the fear of the sexual act is not. And her fear wasn't based upon the very real possibility that childbirth could mean death. 

I can see how some people may enjoy this book more than myself, with some historical aspects and there is the generational aspect, with immigrant experience. I wavered between giving it 2 or 3 stars, and I had to lean on the lesser aspect because all of the positive experience I had with the book was taken away.
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I loved this novel! Grames is an excellent writer and unfurls this tale of the estranged, elderly Fortuna sisters with master story telling.
It's a family saga with the title character Stella Fortuna at the forefront of the tale. As the title spells out, Stella is either very lucky or very unlucky depending on how you look at things. From the time she was a small child she has had many brushes with death and has survived them all. She's beautiful, smart, confident and cold and there is so much more to this story than that brilliant title suggests. 

A brilliant debut novel!
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Thank you to HarperCollins/Ecco and Netgalley for sharing this Italian family story with me. I really enjoyed this novel, and was immediately transported to Calabria, the land of my own ancestors. Having grandparents who emigrated from Calabria to the U.S., I felt such an affinity for these characters and their struggles. Although the book is mostly focused on the title character, Stella, there are many other interesting players in the story. I wish we could have understood a bit more about some of them, since some seemed quite one-dimensional.  But I guess it wasn’t their story. Overall, I would recommend this book.
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This book touched a nerve with me. I married into a family like Stella’s, with a capo very like the men depicted here - autocratic, vulgar, and sly. As I read, I could feel my skin prickle and my heart pound as I raced through passages describing the utter hopelessness Stella felt in the face of the patriarchal familia in which she was caught. Needing to know how Stella’s life turned out kept me going through the book, and I was not disappointed.

Grames writes eloquently and with the passion associated with the southern Italian people. She captures the nuances of the  Italian-American family perfectly, while not shying away from the ugly side of the Fortuna family. The character of Stella is a woman for the ages. Grames has created a larger-than-life character who bursts off the pages, alternately making the reader laugh out loud, cringe, or cheer her on. There’s heartbreak here, but also joy and love. One of the best of 2019.
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This was a slow read for me.  In many ways, it seemed more character-study than story.  I didn't especially like Stella so it was hard to care very much what happened to her.

There seemed to be a great deal of research that went into the book and I appreciate the writing being a debut.  It just didn't really click with me.
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This is a great, immersive read for fans of Lisa See. Parts felt longer than were necessary, but the writing is superb and kept me intereste, and the end is worth the wait.
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Hoo boy; what a dark gut-punch of a book. 

I'm a sucker for family dramas and any novel set in Italy (family connection), so I will acknowledge those biases. Those aside, I love the way Grames wove the family history; the writing is lyrical without being too flowery or indirect, which lends itself to her rich character development. At some points, the horrific events seemed gratuitous even as plot devices, but otherwise I thought the events unfolded well and lent themselves to the anger Stella builds up throughout the book. Unlike some readers, I didn't dislike her in the second half of the novel because of her history.
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What an impressive debut!  Stella Fortuna's life spans a century- between Calabria and the US.  You'll find yourself both mystified and engaged by her.  She's not an easy child nor an easy woman but she's a determined one.  This is not just her story, though.  It's also the story of her mother Assunta (a saint!), her father Joe (not so much!), Carmelo, and the rest.  Grames uses the device of a relative (no spoilers) writing her story while talking with her sister Tina.  The two have been estranged for years and yet remain co-dependent. The mystery of that estrangement is at the root of this (but frankly, the end, and the explanation, is not as good as I hoped). Unique characters and wonderful atmospherics (omgosh Calabria!) made this a terrific read for me.   You will be sympathetic, annoyed, and fascinated by Stella.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  Two thumbs up and highly recommend.
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While I can appreciate the storytelling and research that went into crafting this novel, it simply wasn't for me. I did enjoy the character development (Stella was brilliantly developed, and I felt as if I lived alongside her), but the pace seemed to stagnate for me around two-thirds of the way in.
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I knew it! I said I sensed this would be a 5-star book in for me, and in the end, it was. I just love a biography-styled, family saga that covers more than one generation, and The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna didn’t disappoint.

The book is “written” by the granddaughter of Stella Fortuna, a women who has lived well into her golden years after slipping through death’s grasp seven (or eight) times. Her story is one of family, hardship, trauma, superstition and… ghosts. Stella was born in a small village in Italy, and in her early twenties, moves with her family to Connecticut. We witness how her parents meet, her birth, her childhood, her years in the US, and of course, her near-deaths.

The story is so beautifully written, and so thought provoking. It was one of those stories that gives you all the feels, and it bleeds into your emotions after you close the book. After reading a particularly heart-wrenching section, I felt moody for the following several hours. At first, I had no idea what was wrong with me, but after some thought, I realized that I was carrying the emotions evoked by Stella Fortuna. There was another night where I started to cry as I read. I was a weeping mess. It was sudden and a little confusing – I rarely cry or even laugh out loud when reading or watching a movie. So, believe me, this is some powerful writing.
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Although not at all what I expected, this book was interesting in that it gave a good impression of how hard life was in Italy during and immediately after WWI. I was not a fan of the author's writing style, nor the story, but I was impressed by the apparent thoroughness of research.

My low rating is mostly because I intensely disliked the story, enough that I couldn't get further than several chapters; hopefully others will be charmed by it.
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I can't wait to hand this book to library patrons. Its fully developed characters and engaging plot will appeal to readers of historical fiction, contemporary literary fiction, and books told from a female perspective.
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I have mixed feelings on this book. The first half was amazing--great writing, original premise, intriguing characters and the mystery to discover what all these different deaths would be. If the whole book had been like that, this would have been a 5-star review for sure. The second half however--I just really hated Stella and how she was behaving. I couldn't relate to her at all and I felt the author really removed us from the character so I didn't care about her and could not understand her behavior. It also felt like the second half was more like summarization rather than keeping us grounded in the story.  

3.5 stars
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Interesting read! This story quietly sucks you in with it’s quiet, even keel telling of the journey of the Fortuna clan. The characters are rich with complexities. Some you love, some not so much. By the end of the story, I was so drawn in, that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the Fortuna sisters, even in their dottering old age.
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Stella Fortuna is born in a small Calabrese village, independent,strong minded but subject to the traditional Italian way of submitting to men.  Told over a one hundred year period, social changes are slow to impact Stella’s family.  From Italy to America, Stella’s story is engaging.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  Recommended for readers of generational sagas.
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The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna is a sweeping saga of a multi-generational Italian family that leaves their beloved village of Ievoli in Calabria and settles in Connecticut in pursuit of a better life.

Rich cultural detail and touches of magical realism infuse this emotional family story of strength and survival.  The main character, Stella Fortuna is a fiercely headstrong, tough-as-nails persona whose near-death experiences and refusal to conform with her family’s old-fashioned, oppressive patriarchal traditions cost her dearly.  Stella’s actions test, shape, and influence family relationships and events over the course of several generations, adding depth to the portrayal of the immigrant experience.

This epic debut novel by Juliet Grames is at turns heartwarming and heartbreaking. It is an ode to family love, sibling rivalry, and enduring loyalty.
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This did not turn out to be the novel for me. It had a lot of positives, but I just couldn't get into it. The pros: charming narrator, lots of great detail about living in Calabria, Italy in the early 1900's, wonderful figurative language. The con though is a big one. I just couldn't get into the storyline or the characters. It reads like a historical retelling of two sisters lives and I just kept waiting for the point. I guess I wanted a more traditional plotline. I think other people might like this book who don't mind the less traditional plotline or people who want to learn more about living in Southern Italy 100 years ago. It just didn't happen to be the book for me. It is well written and entertaining. I would say to give it a try and see what you think. 3.5 stars
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