Over a hundred years ago, in a mountainside village in Calabria, Italy, from a union between two young people with little to their names, a baby was born. Beautiful and adored by her mother, baby Mariastella Fortuna, known as Stella, seemed promised a happy destiny.
But if Stella Fortuna means ‘lucky star,’ then life must have a funny sense of humour.
Everybody in the Fortuna family knows the story of how Stella, once the most beautiful girl in the village of Ievoli, the unconventional, fiercely independent young woman who refused to learn to cook and who swore she would never marry, has escaped death time and time again.
From her childhood in Italy, to her adulthood in America, death has seemed to pursue Stella. She has been burned, eviscerated and bludgeoned; she has choked, nearly fallen out of a window, and on one occasion, her life was only saved by a typo.
However, even the best-known stories still have secrets to reveal . . . and even after a century, Stella’s is no exception.
No woman survives seven or eight deaths without a reason. So, how did she?
In a tale which spans nine decades, two continents, and one family’s darkest, deepest-buried truths, the answer awaits. . .
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.
“A rousing multi-generational novel which moves between rural Calabria at the turn of the 20th century and New York in the late Thirties… Writing in vibrant, involving prose that gallops across the pages, Grames serves up a large cast of distinctive characters, with a formidable woman at its heart. Packed with family secrets and their repercussions, the novel memorably pins down the American immigrant experience. It’s an impressive achievement.”—Daily Mail
“Absorbing… Ambitious… Deftly told, this sprawling drama is packed with vividly drawn characters and twisted family secrets. Overall, this is an engrossing debut with an unforgettable main character.”—Daily Express
“This powerful and compelling story has characters so beautifully drawn you’ll feel you know them personally. Mouth-watering descriptions of Italian food and fascinating social history add to the novel’s ever-changing canvas. With layer upon layer of misfortune for Ms Fortuna, this is far from an easy read, but its captivating plotting will keep you rooting for Stella until the end.”—S Magazine (Sunday Express)
“A darkly funny tale about two sisters, Stella and Tina, the former of whom spends her childhood catastrophising from one lethal mishap to another… A class act - don’t miss it.”—Women & Home
“I loved this meaty family saga… I couldn’t help rooting for the complicated and unstoppable hero.”—Good Housekeeping
“This sweeping tale moves from Calabria to Connecticut over the course of a century… Thanks to gorgeous writing from Grames, it’s full of beautiful passages and is the perfect book to take with you on holiday but be warned: it’s not a comfort read… A messy, complex and convincing story of women struggling to find their true power.”—Stylist
“Sure to have everyone talking... [A] wonderful debut.”
—Image Magazine's Reads We Can't Wait for in 2019
“The story of Stella Fortuna, transported from the hilly villages of Italy to the noisy, smoky, claustrophobic heart of immigrant America is by turns captivating, shocking, heartbreaking and life-affirming. This is no ordinary family epic; it is the story of generations of women who, in conformity and non-conformity, blaze with strength, compassion and formidable will. Writing with a sure hand, Grames brings to us a perspective of the Italian immigrant experience that few have dared to examine . . . An extraordinary debut.”
—Vaseem Khan, author of the Baby Ganesh Agency Series