For Stella Fortuna, death has always been a part of life. Stella’s childhood is full of strange, life-threatening incidents—moments where ordinary situations like cooking eggplant or feeding the pigs inexplicably take lethal turns. Even Stella’s own mother is convinced that her daughter is cursed or haunted.
In her rugged Italian village, Stella is considered an oddity—beautiful and smart, insolent and cold. Stella uses her peculiar toughness to protect her slower, plainer baby sister Tina from life’s harshest realities. But she also provokes the ire of her father Antonio: a man who demands subservience from women and whose greatest gift to his family is his absence.
When the Fortunas emigrate to America on the cusp of World War II, Stella and Tina must come of age side-by-side in a hostile new world with strict expectations for each of them. Soon Stella learns that her survival is worthless without the one thing her family will deny her at any cost: her independence.
In present-day Connecticut, one family member tells this heartrending story, determined to understand the persisting rift between the now-elderly Stella and Tina. A richly told debut, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna is a tale of family transgressions as ancient and twisted as the olive branch that could heal them.
About the Author
Juliet Grames was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and grew up in a tight-knit Italian-American family. A book editor, she has spent the last decade at Soho Press, where she is associate publisher and curator of the Soho Crime imprint. This is her first novel.
“This debut novel...follows one fascinating family as they make their way from Italy to America on the brink of the Second World War, only to find that some problems—often ones that have to do with who you are and who you’re related to—aren’t so easy to outrun.”
— Town & Country
“[A] vivid and moving debut.... With her story of an “ordinary” woman who is anything but, Grames explores not just the immigrant experience but the stages of a woman’s life. This is a sharp and richly satisfying novel.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Fictionalized details from the life of the author’s own grandmother inspire this tale of an Italian American family and the complicated woman at its heart.... Readers who appreciate narratives driven by vivid characterization and family secrets will find much to enjoy here.... [Grames is] an author to watch.”
“Juliet Grames has written a magnificent debut, creating a deeply felt, richly imagined world based upon her family history. The dark beauty of Calabria and the promise of America sets the stage for Stella’s volatile life.... Moody, original and profound.”
— Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Tony’s Wife
“Reading The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna is like listening to the rollicking stories of your Italian grandmother— full of memorable characters and speckled with fascinating bits of history. This is a fantastic and timely family story.”
— Jessica Shattuck, bestselling author of The Women in the Castle
“Juliet Grames has delved into the family secrets of an Italian American family and the ways in which those secrets, as well as slights and injustices, can both cross oceans and trickle down through the generations. This quintessential American immigrant story feels important right now, and I highly recommend it.”
— Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
“The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna is a novel you can’t put down. Above all, I envied its sureness, an effortless control remarkable in a debut novel, in which the shrewd and humorous confidence of the narrator’s voice powers a breakout saga of immigration and familial love.”
— Gina Apostol, author of Insurrecto