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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