Michael of Rhodes

Mary Donnarumma Sharnick


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Since its initial strike in 1347, plague, called “The Death” by those who rightly fear it, has been continuously decimating populations across the known world. By 1401, the Venetian fleet has lost so many men to the disease’s swift and brutal fatality that the doge has resorted to recruiting foreigners to take up the republic’s oars.

Enter Michael, a sixteen-year-old boy from a small fishing village on the Isle of Rhodes. Seeking adventure and escape from a dreary existence, Michael dreams of a larger life, perhaps even a heroic one. Little does he suspect that, within the idyllic myth of Venice the republic perpetuates and he is eager to embrace, a concerted, systematic attack on innocence as gruesome as “The Death” itself will quickly obliterate his juvenile misconceptions and initiate him into a grown-up world where his physical strength, his religious faith, and his very identity are challenged. Learning how to navigate both the seas his galley travels as well as the circuitous social machinations of Venice that mirror the city’s intricate canal system, Michael comes of age.

What does his growth cost him? Where do his decisions lead? Can conscience trump cowardice? What, in the end, defines a man?


Mary Donnarumma Sharnick:

Mary Donnarumma Sharnick has been writing ever since the day she printed her long name on her first library card.  Fascinated by la Serenissima and the islands of the Venetian lagoon since her initial visit in 1969, Mary has returned to Venice numerous times.  With the generous support of The Beatrice Fox Auerbach Solo Writer’s Fellowship, Mary was afforded the opportunity to conduct research in Venice during the summer of 2010.  Her historical novel, THIRST (Fireship Press, 2012), was the result of that sojourn. The novel is presently being adapted for the operatic stage by composer Gerard Chiusano and librettists Mary Chiusano and Robert Cutrofello. Two Nigel Taplin Innovative Teaching Grants from Chase Collegiate School, Waterbury, CT, where Mary chairs the English Department, have assisted Mary’s research for PLAGUED, the first novel in a series based on the historical Michael of Rhodes.  In 2008, Mary was awarded a scholarship to Wesleyan Writers’ Conference.  Both at Wesleyan and later in private workshops, Mary studied with novelist Rachel Basch.  Mary has taught at Auburn (AL) University Writers’ Conference (2012) and Mark Twain House Writer’s Weekend (2013, 2014).  She has read at the 41st annual convention of the American Italian Historical Association (New Haven) as well as at numerous libraries and schools. With her husband Wayne Sharnick, Mary leads her writing students on “slow travel” tours of Italy, the country she considers her second home.