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Although I read almost half, I was unable to finish it.

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna - Juliet Grames

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, Juliet Grames, author; Lisa Flanagan, narrator I did not finish this book. It is rare for me to give up on a book, however, when I began dreading the return to it, I decided it was time. After almost half, I gave up. Although the narrator did a fine job with each of the characters, the subject matter kept putting me to sleep. I had to listen to the same parts over and over again because they were tedious and redundant which made the almost 17 hours of audio seem unending. The book was about the life of the second Stella Fortuna, the first one having died in early childhood. The second always seemed to be able to cheat a death that would have taken others. It was about how this Stella often made crucial errors, how she was filled with remorse for her mistakes, how she vowed it would not happen again, but it did, how her life and the life of her family played out in an unfair world in which they felt powerless. Stella’s father, Antonio, was an abusive and selfish man. He believed that women were beneath him in stature and were there to serve his needs. He had traveled to America to make his fortune, leaving the family behind in Italy. He visited infrequently. After many years, he still felt loyalty to his wife, Assunta, and to his children. He wanted to bring them to America so that they could be reunited. After he managed to figure out the system and work out the appropriate paper work, they finally arrived. One of his children, Luigi, had never even met his father, having been born after his last visit home. Antonio was now far more worldly than the rest of his family and noticed the differences. The first Stella Fortuna had died because of the family’s poverty, their inability to get the appropriate care for a sick child, and the selfishness of the elite rich who would not help them, although it was within their power. The second Stella was unsure of herself, angry or unhappy most of the time. Also, because of her ignorance about many things in life, she often made poor choices. Although she seemed to always survive against all odds, she seemed to be plagued with misfortune. Her life was fraught with moments of confusion and disaster. After each disastrous occurrence, Stella always reprimanded herself, but still, she seemed to make the mistakes again, regardless. It was because of her ability to survive death so many times that she was relied upon to be the strength and guidance in the family. Her ability to survive dangerous situations which might have felled others, seemed to give Stella power and an odd kind of stature. Although she sometimes seemed to possess a great deal of arrogance, at times, she also seemed distrustful and lacked self confidence. She often doubted her own judgment and that generally resulted in failures of judgment. To Stella (or perhaps the author), men were always waiting for their prey. They were eager to take advantage of women in any way they could and to cheat all those who were weaker than they. Although she was taken advantage of by the system and by evil people, and although it was really not her fault since she was not experienced in the outside world, having come from a tiny little Italian village, Ievoli in Calabria, and really had no worldly experience, I was not able to admire Stella for the efforts she made on behalf of herself and her family. I grew impatient with the bleakness of the novel and did not want to read about another tragic situation, avoided or not. Still, all of the above should not have turned me off the book because a reader does not have to like the characters. The prose flowed well and seemed really well done in terms of the use of language, but perhaps it was the repetitious nature of the narrative that kept me thinking, oh no, not again each time I read of another possible disaster in the making. The book, in one way, was trying to present the difficulties immigrants face, especially when faced with bureaucracies that they don’t understand or are not familiar with, and it stressed the effect those traumatic experiences have on the family as it tries to melt into the fabric of the society. Beyond that, and Stella’s near death misses, I found it tedious. I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel coming in the future. There was a redeeming feature in the novel, however, although it was repetitious and dark, the writing was clear and concise, and the translation seemed to accurately and clearly represent the author’s intent.