The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna - Juliet Grames
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.
The Bad Mother’s Book Club - Keris Staunton
Since moving to the seaside for her husband's job (in Liverpool), Emma Chance's life is all about long walks on the beach (with the dog), early nights (with the kids), and Netflix (no chill). She's bored. And lonely.
When a school gate mum and almost-friend tells Emma about an exclusive book club - hosted by Head of the PTA (and wife of a footballer, but NOT a Footballer's Wife) Jools Jackson - she thinks it could be the perfect solution, but she doesn't like Jools and Jools doesn't seem to like her either. So she's surprised when Jools invites her along. And it's fine. It's not quite what Emma was looking for - she doesn't have much in common with the other mums and the book club meetings have too much focus on the books and not enough on, say, wine and gossip - but it's better than nothing.
After a couple of awkward months, an accident with a glass of red wine on a white carpet, and Jools's daughter learning the word "fucknugget", Jools tells Emma she's no longer welcome in her club. Emma is at first self-righteous, then embarrassed - and curious about why Jools's husband was crying in his car - but eventually settles back into boredom and loneliness again.
But Emma's blacklisting by Jools seems to endear her to the other school mums. They all have a Jools story, along with their own tales of shame and humiliation. Long (sometimes whispered) chats at the school gates, become even longer, laughter-filled, conversations in the small library at the bottom of School Lane, until Emma realises she can start her own book club - no cleaners, polite conversation or, realistically, reading required: The Bad Mothers' Book Club is born.