As Robin Oliveira's first novel, My Name Is Mary Sutter has set the standard high for the author. This novel set during the Civil War was so fabulous, so compelling that I mourned when I had finished it. I mean, not like sobbing uncontrollably or anything like that, but I was bummed. I wanted more.
Mary Sutter is a strong young woman who has a singular focus: to be a surgeon. During Civil War times, this was considered outrageous. Women were nurses, not physicians. Mary futilely attempts to intern with a few surgeons, but they all refuse her. Ultimately, she escapes from her privileged home in Albany, New York and heads to Washington, DC, where she is thrown into a gritty world of amputations, pain, exhaustion, and constant heartache. In a rundown hotel-made-hospital, she becomes a surgeon.
I have nothing but praise for Oliveira. Her writing is delicious. Her characters are vivid and memorable; the dialogue is excellent; the historical perspective fascinating. I will wait with expectation for her next novel and hope it can be even half as good as Mary Sutter.
A great companion to this novel is March, by Geraldine Brooks, which I reviewed recently. The two together depict a side of the Civil War that doesn't get as much attention as the battles and lives of soldiers.
Thanks to Wisteria at Bookworm's Dinner for the initial recommendation of this novel!
Other Reviews of My Name Is Mary Sutter
Fiction Writers Review: "Mary herself is a symbol of what women have historically brought to the American experiment, showing incredible tenacity in the face of injustice and patient nurture in the aftermath of violence."
ReadSpace: "Combine that with real people and events from history, a set of very human characters who give perspective to what is happening, and even a love story and this book moves beyond just a Civil War story."
CaribousMom: "In the pages of her novel, Oliveira captures the chaos, death, and trauma of under supplied hospitals and overwhelmed doctors and nurses…bringing to life the amazing stamina and courage of those who filled those roles."
My Friend Amy: "…should appeal to readers interested in the history ofmedicine, war-time medicine, the advancement of women's rights, and the Civil War."
Take Me Away Reading: "his was truly a powerful book with a strong female lead."