MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER by Robin Oliveira
Publisher Viking, May 2010
In this stunning historical novel, Mary Sutter is a brilliant, headstrong midwife from Albany, New York, who dreams of becoming a surgeon. Determined to overcome the prejudices against women in medicine—and eager to run away from her recent heartbreak—Mary leaves home and travels to Washington, D.C. to help tend the legions of Civil War wounded. Under the guidance of William Stipp and James Blevens—two surgeons who fall unwittingly in love with Mary’s courage, will, and stubbornness in the face of suffering—and resisting her mother’s pleas to return home to help with the birth of her twin sister’s baby, Mary pursues her medical career in the desperately overwhelmed hospitals of the capital.
Like Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Robert Hicks’s The Widow of the South, My Name Is Mary Sutterpowerfully evokes the atmosphere of the period. Rich with historical detail (including marvelous depictions of Lincoln, Dorothea Dix, General McClelland, and John Hay among others), and full of the tragedies and challenges of wartime, My Name Is Mary Sutter is an exceptional novel. And, in Mary herself, Robin Oliveira has created a truly unforgettable heroine whose unwavering determination and vulnerability will resonate with readers everywhere.
“My Name Is Mary Sutter now ranks with Cold Mountain as my all- time favorite Civil War-era novel. It is a beautifully written, fully realized, and astoundingly insightful novel, the finest and, in the best sense, most American novel about an American heroine or hero that I’ve read since The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.”
— Howard Frank Mosher, author of Walking to Gatlinburg: A Novel
My Name Is Mary Sutter is a remarkable book, one of the most assured first novels I’ve read in a long, long time. Robin Oliveira brings the Civil War era vividly alive, and her heroine is a character who, once encountered, few readers will forget. Bravo!
— Ron Rash author of Serena, Saints at the River
In MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER it seems as though Robin Oliveria brought Mary Sutter back to life rather than imagined her. With her description of the Sutter home, the reader becomes a guest at the dinner table. This is a finely written novel of the medical failings and opportunities presented by the war. But it is really the story of a woman who lives her life with the passion and stubbornness needed to take her through the strains of battlefield hospital work, through her grief for family loses and the war wounded; it is the story of the extraordinary need that propels her to become a surgeon. Even in the darkest days, Mary’s enormous compassion and healing touch shine forth. Thank you so much for sharing it with me.
— Mary Gay Shipley, owner of That Bookstore in Blytheville
Oliveira’s voice is urgently compelling in its detail and so authentically pitched, she might have been transported directly from the tumult of Civil War Washington to report this story.
— Debra Dean, author of The Madonnas of Leningrad
“MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER is a magnificent Civil War epic, a saga of female liberation and a gorgeous love story. Mary Sutter’s quest to become a surgeon when women were barely allowed to be nurses is one of the great untold stories of American history. She is indomitable, fearless and captivating. From Ireland’s Corners, New York, to the over-crowded hospitals of Washington to battlefield surgeries to a meeting with Abraham Lincoln himself, Mary Sutter’s progress is gritty and passionate–a riveting read.”
— Douglas Glover, author of Elle
“There’s more than a whiff of the classic in Robin Oliveira’s charming, compulsively readable historical tale about Mary Sutter, a plucky young midwife and aspiring physician making her way through Lincoln’s war–a literary sister to Jo March and Laura Ingalls, our iconic American heroines.”
— Janice Lee, author of The Piano Teacher
“MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER is a powerful debut – equally compelling for its portrayal of the horrors of surgery during the Civil War as it is for its human drama. Mary Sutter is unforgettable, not just because she’s quirky, odd and persistent in her quest to be a surgeon, but also because she is alive inside anyone who knows what it is to dream.”
— Xu Xi, author of The Unwalled City
I am deeply impressed by MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER. Oliveira weaves the strands of civil war history, history of medicine into a novel with dynamic and believable characters. Mary is a wonderful heroine, with extraordinary gifts and weaknesses too. That every man is in love with her is no wonder. A thrilling debut.
— Carla Cohen, Politics and Prose Bookstore
“A vivid, dramatic novel about love, medicine, and the Civil War, MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER features an indomitable, memorable heroine whom the reader will root for until the very end.”
— David Ebershoff, author of The 19th Wife and The Danish Girl