Book Review: My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

Title: My Name is Mary Sutter
Author: Robin Oliveira
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Viking
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: “Are you Mary Sutter?”

In the middle of the 19th century, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to be a midwife. It is not acceptable, however, for her to desire more: to understand the human body in its entirety, to treat both men and women, to become a doctor. Mary Sutter is an accomplished midwife when the Civil War gives her the opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a surgeon. Leaving behind family obligations and a failed romance, Mary heads to Washington, DC, and finds herself in the middle of horror and carnage beyond anything she could have imagined.

I loved this book. I was worried that this might be one of those cases of the hype raising my expectations too high – especially when I loaned my copy to my mom before I had a chance to read it, and she gushed over it as well – but this book met every one of my high expectations for historical fiction. Mary is an extremely well-written character: a woman whose passion and dreams war with her love of family and sense of duty. Her strength in the face of the most horrific circumstances, her longing to simply learn, her matter-of-fact way of filling whatever need she sees – these things all made me love her.

Beyond character, this novel has a sense of place and history. Oliveira clearly did her research, and the detail and care she takes in describing the war and the men and women living through it make this novel truly remarkable. Mary came to life to me as I read, and she brought the people and places she encountered right along with her. I have no doubt that this book will easily make it onto my “best books I read in 2011” list.

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16 Responses to Book Review: My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

  1. Jules
    Twitter: bookwormjules
    says:

    I recently finished and reviewed this book too. While I agree it was an excellently done on the historical fiction side (I couldn’t say how accurate it was because I live north of the border, and no little about the American Civl War), but it was still well written. I didn’t like Mary or the other characters. I just didn’t find them believable and felt they were forced – especially with their romantic relationships. I liked Mary in one scene, but that was about it. But, I’d still recommend it, especially to historical fiction fans.

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I have heard alot about this book, but 5 stars! Wow. I have it on my shelves, and of course it is competing with all the wonderful things I just picked up at SIBA. Decisions. Looks like I’ve been neglecting it for too long!

  3. Kailana says:

    This sounds really good and I am glad you enjoyed it so much. Great review!

  4. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    It’s nice when a book lives up to its hype. Mary sounds like a fabulous character – truly a woman before her time.

  5. Wendy says:

    Ah, another book we totally agree about! I loved this book – wonderful review!!!

  6. Stephanie says:

    This has been on my TBR list since it was first published, so I am glad you liked it!

  7. Kathleen says:

    I cannot resist a good story that has “a sense of place and history”. I’ve read about this one before and it seems that all of the reviews have been favorable. I will be adding it to my list.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathleen – if you love historical fiction, you should definitely give this one a try.

  8. Anna says:

    I need a few more books for this challenge, so I’ll have to see if my library has this one. Your review will be featured on War Through the Generations on Nov. 11. Thanks for participating!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Anna – that reminds me, I should check and see how I’m doing with the challenge!