Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

Author: Robin Oliveira
Publisher/Format: Books on Tape, audio 14 1/2 hours; 384 page equivalent
Narrator: Kimberly Farr
Characters: Mary Sutter, James Bleven, William Stipp
Subject: Women in medicine
Setting: Albany NY, Washington DC
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: public library audio download

This one has  a very gutsy- some would say too gutsy to be believed- protagonist, set in the blood and gore of the American Civil war.  Mary Sutter is a midwife by training and vocation.  However, she wants to be a doctor, and is frustrated by the constant refusal of medical schools of the time to let her study and by her failed attempts to apprentice herself to a practicing doctor.

When she sees a call for nurses to help the wounded in the recently declared war against the south, she packs her bags, heads for Washington DC and doesn't look back.  Once again her expectations are dashed.  She doesn't want to be a nurse, she has not credentials, she's young and unmarried, the deck is not stacked the way she wants it.  The story of her back-breaking, spirit crushing work and her medical education in various venues both on the battlefields and in the filthy, unhygienic amputation tents and military hospitals is not for those with weak stomachs.  It is however, a compelling read, giving us a sense of horror at the senseless waste of life and limb.

The telling of Mary Sutter's personal relationships with her mother, her twin sister, her brother-in-law, and the doctors she works with  givie a well-developed character whose motivation is clear, whose actions are believable, and whose pain we can feel.

This is one I'd been trying to get to for months, and I'm really glad I did. It was worth the wait.


  1. I refuse to read one of those books with the headless covers.
    yes, I am shallow.

  2. I love medical history and I'm well aware women did things during the Civil War they had never done (or been allowed to do) before. This is going on my list for sure.

  3. Hey caite,
    The paperback has a head on the cover - Whew!


Welcome, thanks for stopping by. Now that you've heard our two cents, perhaps you have a few pennies to throw into the discussion. Due to a bunch more anonymous spam getting through, I've had to disallow anonymous comments. I try to respond to all comments posing a question, but may not always get to you right away.