Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

Publisher: Viking (Penguin)
Pages: 364
Source: Publisher
Category: Fiction


My Name is Mary Sutter is the story of a young, brilliant, midwife who aspires to become a doctor. Her biggest obstacle, her gender. In 1861, no medical school will accept her, and deem it preposterous that she evens wants to become a surgeon. Mary is told to remain a midwife, and nothing more. Mary Sutter comes from a well-to-do family, she is an accomplished midwife, who outshines her own mother. Her twin sister Jenny, has no regard for midwifing. She is the pretty sister, the wife of the man that Mary admired. Now pregnant, Mary can not be the woman to assist in Jenny's birth. When the civil war breaks out, Mary sees an opportunity. She must leave Albany, New York. Without the approval or knowledge of her mother, she boards a train to Washington. Becoming a surgeon may be out of her league at the moment, but a nurse seems more attainable. Mary is unprepared to for the unspeakable conditions of Washington, she wonders if she has made the proper decision. Washington city at the time was filthy and wealthy people were discouraged from visiting. Mary's ambition is at a great cost to her. She is forced to change her way of life, and live in unutterable conditions. The army is filled with men with no guns, no food and no training. The doctors are surgeons who have never performed an operation. Make-shift hospitals have basic supplies, and supplies are scarce. Mary does everything in her power to learn. Doctor William Stipp agrees takes Mary under his wing.The hospital soon becomes over-crowded with wounded soldiers, and Mary is the only person able to help Dr. Stipp. Mary finally begins to apprentice, Dr. Stiff reluctantly allows her to assist during amputations. Dr. Stipp himself performs his first surgery, with the aid of Mary. In Washington Mary's dream becomes a reality, she mends her broken heart and she paves the road for her future.

Overall Impression:

I really enjoyed Mary Sutter, I feel in love with her character and I was rooting for her throughout the novel. When Thomas chose her sister Jenny over her, I felt heartbroken for Mary. After all, Jenny is her twin sister, only more beautiful. Mary is an independent courageous, and persuasive character. I loved her spontaneity and her strong-willed mind. Mary Sutter is a remarkable heroin for women. She made the impossible, possible by never giving up. Searching for opportunities, and she never wavered from her goals. Mary's perseverance is admirable. I do admit, as a Canadian I was not very familiar with the civil war but I really did appreciate the history of the book, Robin Oliveira has created a powerful account of the civil war. My Name is Mary Sutter is filled with captivating characters, inspiration and passion. A book that is not to be missed. Yes, there is a little romance in this one and some shocking events that I will not divulge. You'll be heartbroken, disturbed and enthralled.


  1. It's so sad that I haven't read a single book for the Civil War challenge I'm co-hosting this year. But this sounds like one I should pick up. Thanks for the review! I will link to it on War Through the Generations.

  2. Mary sounds like a fantastic character. Maybe I can get this book read for the Civil War challenge.