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Escaping death -- seven or eight times

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'The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna' by Juliet Grames
'The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna' by Juliet Grames
Courtesy of publisher

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke to Carol Price from BookPeople in Moscow, Idaho.

Stella Fortuna has escaped death not one, not two, not three — but seven or eight times.

That's where the title of Juliet Grames' novel comes from: "The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna."

The book draws on Grames' own family history; Stella is based on the author's grandmother.

Bookseller Carol Price recommends the book, which follows Stella's life from birth to death (the last one, anyway), and spans most of the 20th century.

It begins in Italy, where Stella is born, and follows her on a boat when she emigrates to New York City during the middle of World War II.

The book is divided up by her near-death experiences. "It's like Death One, Death Two, Death Three, Death Four..." Price explained. "The different ways that she almost dies are very interesting. There's burns, evisceration, bludgeoning, drowning, rape, exsanguination, choking and cerebral hemorrhage. It's a really interesting and fun book to read — not always easy, though. The society in which Stella grows up is a very oppressive patriarchy, and women have no agency. Basically, they have to be married and be under the subjection of a husband to be considered people.

"Stella is unusual because she is not like that. She's very independent, and she's beautiful, and she resists her whole life what is expected of her."

When the book opens, we meet Stella as an old woman. She is no longer speaking to her sister, with whom she was incredibly close for their entire lives — until something happened. 

"In their old age, Stella has not been able to be in the same room as her sister," Price said. "It starts there, and then it goes back to the beginning to try and explain what happened, how they got to that point in their life, what could possibly explain that rupture between the sisters." 

 The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna  The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna