Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: Robin Oliveira's My Name is Mary Sutter

I had this book on my Goodreads to-read list for some time, after reading a glowing review by a fellow book-blogger.

I'm so glad I finally found it at my local library. Mary Sutter is a remarkable heroine, and her story was a fascinating read.

Mary is the latest in a long line of midwives. At a young age, she's made a name for herself as a deliverer of babies. But much as she loves bringing a new life into the world, she yearns for something more: she wants to be a surgeon.

In a world just on the brink of the American Civil War, women who want to be doctors are out of luck--there's even dispute over whether women should be nursing men! (Is that "proper"?)

But Mary is single-minded and determined in her resolve. When a budding romance is cut short, she doesn't stay around to nurse (no pun intended) her broken heart.

The Civil War has just begun, and nurses are needed. Rejected as "too young" by nursing crusader Dorothea Dix, Mary finds a place to serve where she can learn from an experienced surgeon at the same time.

Mary works at a Washington D.C. hospital with horrendous conditions, desperately wounded soldiers and appalling shortages of painkilling medicines and even basically essential supplies.

Her nursing even brings her to the battlefields, where she literally has to make life-or-death decisions. Mary faces it all with untiring equanimity and unflagging bravery.

Through it all, a love story is brewing that will come to fruition when the war is finally at an end.

If you've ever had the slightest interest in the Civil War, this novel is a must-read. Robin Oliveira has obviously researched her subject impeccably. We get to see Abraham Lincoln up close and personal, and this adds the ring of authenticity to Mary's story.

As I said earlier, Mary is a wonderfully admirable heroine, but coming to life through Oliveira's pen, she's real and vulnerable and deeply likable--you're rooting for her throughout the entire book for her to realize her dreams and find a worthy love.

I love how Mary is described as not being beautiful, but how the men in her life are immediately drawn to her personality and spirit. There's definitely something about Mary.

As with all good books that describe war, this one doesn't flinch. I'm once again struck with just how truly horrific was the Civil War.

And so many of the Civil War-era books I've read have been from the South's perspective--it was good to read one from the Northern point of view.

I give it five stars. A fascinating read about a remarkable woman in a turbulent time.

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!



Corey P. said...

Great review of what sounds like an intriguing read! The Civil War does indeed interest me, and it interests my brother even more so. He's devoured every book about the subject we've put in his path. His all-time favorite book is Shaara's "God's and Generals". :)

Regarding your question about Wodehouse...

I've read about six or seven of his works so far; all of them are fantastic, but my favorites would have to be "Carry On, Jeeves" and "Leave It to Psmith." The former is a collection of hilarious short stories, and the latter is a full-length novel - probably the funniest novel I've ever read. :)

Cindy Swanson said...

They both go on my to-read list, Corey! :)

BTW, I posted a link to your blog on Facebook...

Anonymous said...

This one was a five-star read for me, too. Loved it!

47Rah1980 said...

Nice Review.

The Michael Shaara Prize for Civil War fiction for 2011 will be announced very soon.


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