“Over the course of her hundred years...Stella Fortuna would survive eight near-death experiences - or seven, depending on how you count them. She would be bludgeoned and concussed, she would asphyxiate, she would hemorrhage, and she would be lobotomized. She would be partially submerged in boiling oil, be split from belly to bowel on two unrelated occasions, and on a different day have her life saved only by a typo. Once she would almost accidentally commit suicide.”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and that’s part of the preface of Juliet Grames’ novel The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna. Stella spends the first sixteen years of her life in a rugged Italian village until her abusive father, Antonio, emigrates the family to America on the cusp of World War II. The family of six settle in Hartford, Connecticut, and work a variety of menial jobs.
The book is divided into four sections: Childhood, Youth, Maturity and Old Age and the chapters within each section are divided by Stella’s near-death experiences: Burns, Evisceration, Bludgeoning, Drowning, Rape, Exsanguination, Choking and Cerebral hemorrhage.
As the story begins, Stella has just had her last brush with death where part of her brain was removed and she has now decided that her beloved sister, Tina, was the cause of all her near deaths and refuses to speak to her. The narrator of the story is one of Stella’s grandchildren who, through the storytelling, tries to explain why Stella won’t speak to her sister from whom she wouldn’t be parted as they were growing up.
If you appreciate a well told story of family dynamics, then you must read The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames.