Penmore Press is pleased to introduce featured author Mary Sharnick, whose new acclaimed novel Orla's Canvas is now available in paperback and ebook editions. Orla's Canvas received the Connecticut Press Club 2016 Communications Award for Best Novel for Adults, and received third place award for the 2016 National Federation of Press Women's in adult fiction.
A native of Connecticut, Mary graduated from Fairfield University with a degree in English and earned a master’s degree from Trinity College, Hartford. She has been awarded a scholarship from the Wesleyan Writers Conference (2008), two Nigel Taplin Innovative Teaching grants (2008, 2011), and a fellowship from the Hartford Council for the Arts Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation (2010). A student of novelists Rachel Basch and Louis Bayard, Mary has participated in the 2014 Yale Writers’ Conference historical fiction workshop and has presented at the Auburn Writers Conference (2012), the Association for Writers and Writing Programs conference in Boston (2013), the Italian American Historical Association’s conference in Toronto (2014), and annually at the Mark Twain Writers Conference in Hartford, as well as at the University of Connecticut’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Her research has taken her to Venice, Italy, the Deep South, and monastic communities in Italy, Vermont, and Connecticut.
Mary’s first two novels, Thirst (2012) and Plagued (2014), are set in the Venetian lagoon during the seventeenth and fifteenth centuries, respectively. Thirst is being adapted for the operatic stage by composer Gerard Chiusano and librettists Mary Chiusano and Robert Cutrofello.
Mary's latest novel, Orla's Canvas, is a compelling rites of passage novel, set in the South during the civil rights movement of the '60s. Narrated by eleven-year-old Orla Gwen Gleason, Orla’s Canvas opens on Easter Sunday, in St. Suplice, Louisiana, a “misspelled town” north of New Orleans, and traces Orla's dawning realization that all is not as it seems in her personal life or in the life of her community. The death of St. Suplice’s doyenne, Mrs. Bellefleur Dubois Castleberry, for whom Orla’s mother keeps house, reveals Orla’s true paternity, shatters her trust in her beloved mother, and exposes her to the harsh realities of class and race in the civil rights-era South. When the Klan learns of Mrs. Castleberry’s collaboration with the local Negro minister and Archbishop Rummel to integrate the parochial school, violence fractures St. Suplice's vulnerable stability. The brutality Orla witnesses at summer’s end awakens her to life’s tenuous fragility. Like the South in which she lives, she suffers the turbulence of changing times. Smart, resilient, and fiercely determined to make sense of her pain, Orla paints chaos into beauty, documenting both horror and grace, discovering herself at last through her art.
Praise for Orla's Canvas:
Orla's Canvas is a lyrical, poignant story of a young talented girl coming of age in the dawning Civil Rights era in the South. Orla's art is her window on the world, a world she valiantly struggles to make sense of. More than once, I thought of another southern girl, this one named Scout. For good reason; Orla's Canvas is an American classic for our times." — James R. Benn, author of the award-winning Billy Boyle series
In Orla's Canvas, Mary Donnarumma Sharnick paints a luminous portrait of a small Louisiana town struggling with the need to change. Young Orla views the world with the sensitivity and sensibility of the painter that she is, looking long and hard at the people she often loves but does not understand. Sharnick writes unstintingly about race and class and the violence we perpetuate in both large and small ways every day. Ultimately, though, this story, Orla’s story, is about the great power of love and art. Read this book and be prepared to have your heart and soul expanded. — Rachel Basch, author of The Listener
Orla’s Canvas is the vibrant, engrossing story of a young artist coming of age during the violent upheaval of the civil rights era in the Deep South. With understated intensity and elegant lyricism, Donnarumma Sharnick brings her characters to life as authentic human beings, with flaws and virtues alike. The young narrator’s journey in search of the redemptive power of art is resonant and compelling. — Joan Lownds, author of Man Overboard
“Taking as her canvas the civil rights era in Louisiana, Mary Donnarumma Sharnick tells the affecting story of Orla, a remarkable young heroine with the soul of an artist. The novel is both a gripping look into a historic moment in American culture and a poignant coming-of-age story readers won't forget.” — Chantel Acevedo, author of The Distant Marvels