MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER
by Robin Oliveira
$26.95/$33.50 Can; 384 pages
ISBN 13 978-0670021673
May 13, 2010
Mary Sutter, shared the womb with her sister Jenny, but in her words her life is more in “competition than cooperation” with her neonatal twin. Mary has followed in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife. Considered by many to have far surpassed her mother’s talents, Mary is competent and popular, regarded with high esteem. However, she wants more. Following her life’s passion to become a surgeon, she seeks admittance to the Albany Medical College. Facing gender prejudice, her application is denied. With an indomitable spirit she seeks alternatives to learn to become a surgeon. She is called upon to help deliver a breach baby where she meets James Blevin, a surgeon. Although impressed with Mary’s technique, he denies her request to become her teacher. When the Civil War breaks out, Dorothea Dix forms an organization to hire a corp of nurses. Mary travels to Washington, DC to answer the ad, but is denied because of her age. With a fiery determination and unshakable resolve to fight prejudice in her way, she finally ends up insinuating herself upon Dr. Sipps another surgeon. He works in a retched, unsanitary, disease filled overcrowded hospital. Sipps is overwhelmed with the wounded and sick but reluctantly allows Mary Sutter to assist, watch and listen. She is witness to bloody battlefields where she must step over the dead and seriously wounded, maimed and diseased. What she learns is more than she ever expected as she is faced with difficult choices. The battle between the North and South, is a metaphor for her own guilt over family, career prejudice, love and reconciliation.
Mary Sutter is an unforgettable character, a role model of distinct strength. With determination and raw nerve she overcomes not only the prejudices that seek to impede her goal to become a surgeon, but she presses her own character beyond the limits of human tolerance. This is a graphic and brutally honest depiction of the massive carnage that resulted during the Civil War when canon artillery combined with limited medical knowledge and inadequate supplies decimated hundreds of thousands of men. Even still, Robin Oliveira’s storytelling is captivating and is a welcomed addition of historical fiction for anyone interested in reading about this period. A dramatically compelling story, tearful and tragically real, sure to produce deep breathing and serious pondering of the past. With my highest recommendation, this will be a top ten of 2010.
Disclosure: This copy was sent to me by Viking Press. This review is offered without bias and is my honest opinion.
© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], .