Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

REVIEW: My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

on August 17, 2010

A while ago I entered a contest on my blogging friend’s website: and won a signed copy of Oliveira’s My Name Is Mary Sutter . I was so excited since I love historical fiction and had heard good things about this novel.

My Name Is Mary Sutter tells the story of an Albany midwife who seeks to become a surgeon during the Civil War. Female surgeons were unheard of at the time and she receives rejection after rejection. Eventually she answers Dorothea Dix’s call for nurses and goes to Washington, D.C. to nurse in the famed Union Hospital. The description of the conditions of that time are both riveting and repulsive. The conditions can only be described as barbaric – yet completely accurate for that time. Mary goes on to tend wounded soldiers both on the field and off — while seeking to quiet some demons from her own past.

I really enjoyed this book. The descriptions of nursing reminded me a lot of Louisa May Alcott’s “Hospital Sketches” – a serial account she published of her nursing experiences in the Civil War (where she served, like Mary Sutter, at the Union Hospital). Disturbing, yet fascinating, it makes a reader so very thankful for how very far medicine has come in the past 150 years!!

If I had one disappointment with this book, it was with Mary herself. I found her aloof and unapproachable. She is described as plain and conventionally unattractive, but yet with a quality about her that draws men. Apparently so, as every main male character was in love with her! She was described with words like “exquisite”. Yet, she was so untouchable that I found myself not really caring about her. I wish the story had stayed from her point of view the entire time so that I could get into her head, as I felt the story started that way. I “lost” Mary part way through, and by page 300 I am sorry to admit that I was tired of her unflagging strength, courage, morale, skill, intuition, talent, and fortitude.

That said, I did enjoy this book very much and would recommend it to fans of historical fiction, particularly of the Civil War period; but be aware that there are graphic scenes dealing with medical conditions and procedures of that time. I’d be curious what other readers thought as I know it was a popular read a few months back.

Again — many thanks to my buddy Dawn at “She Is too Fond of Books” for gifting me with this beautiful signed copy that I will treasure!! 🙂

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