My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira – Book Review

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
Published by Penguin (Non-Classics)

The best midwife in Albany – better, even, than her mother – all Mary Sutter wants is to be a surgeon. Unfortunately, the local medical school wants nothing to do with a female surgeon. When war breaks out, suddenly one of the things that the Union needs most is medical personnel. Although even Civil War is not enough to make Mary suddenly accepted as a doctor, she does have the opportunity to work as a nurse, which she seems as a stepping stone. Leaving for DC to take care of wounded soldiers, also gives Mary the excuse to leave behind a painful personal matter at home.

Oliveira suffuses My Name is Mary Sutter with a great deal of fascinating historical detail. The mid-19th century birthing and surgery scenes are horrifically realistic. Unfortunately, Mary herself was not the most engaging of characters. She was strong, she was interesting, but she didn’t capture me. The writing was strong and it was always easy to pick the book up, but it was also just as easy to put it down, primarily due to a lack of feeling for Mary.

Although I failed to connect with My Name is Mary Sutter as deeply as I had hoped, it was still a strong debut novel, and worth reading for those interested in nursing and medical care during the Civil War.

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Source: personal copy.
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8 comments to My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira – Book Review

  • The idea behind this book sounds really good. Even though you didn’t enjoy it as much as you hoped, I think I will still see about reading at some point.

  • I’m interested in reading this one – hopefully I’ll connect to Mary more. I bet my mother would love it, though.

  • I agree with your assessment. I admired Mary but I couldn’t connect with her.

  • Pam

    Hm, this isn’t my normal genre so I’d be really hesitant to try it as you weren’t able to connect. Maybe at the right time in the future I’d have more luck.

  • I am sorry you didn’t connect with this one as much as you would have hoped. I was really excited about it when it came out but never got my hands on a copy, so who knows if I will ever read it!

  • Meg

    I’m sort of squeamish, so I’m not sure I could stomach some of “realistic” bits — but the premise still sounds interesting! I’ve been gobbling up lots of historical fiction lately, and this might be one I’ll add to my list.

  • Love nursing in the Civil War. But I need me a charismatic heroine.

  • I’m about half way through the book now. While I love the historical fiction side of it, I also find Mary to be bland – especially considering what the book is all about. Historical ficion side of it is keeping me reading, the main plot has been good so far, just ot a fan of the chanters.