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My Name is Mary Sutter

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  14,015 ratings  ·  2,087 reviews
An enthralling historical novel about a young woman's struggle to become a doctor during the Civil War

In this stunning first 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 tr
Hardcover, 364 pages
Published May 13th 2010 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2010)
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I was trying to rally some friends to go with me to an event by this author. No one was interested, which puzzled me. “You have to come! Civil War books are awesome!” One guy was particularly reluctant. “But we can read it together! Civil War books are the best!” He admitted that he have not read any Civil War novels and seemed uncomfortable. At which point, it occurred to me that I myself haven’t read many Civil War books.* But I forged ahead like a robot. “Civil War books are great!” He asked ...more
Apr 17, 2012 Lyndz rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lyndz by: Ann
Shelves: reviewed
I am feeling a bit torn about how I feel about My Name is Mary Sutter. On the one hand I love a book with a strong-willed female protagonist – and this definitely had that. On the other hand, war books are hard for me to emotionally stomach – since I have a brother in the Army.

My Name is Marry Sutter is about an able-bodied young midwife who, during the American Civil war, is trying to fulfill a life-long ambition to become a doctor, more specifically a surgeon. She faces disappointment and sexi
Set in Albany New York during the American Civil War in the 1860's, Mary Sutter is a renowned and respected midwife. However, her fascination with medicine doesn't end there and she dreams of maybe, someday becoming a surgeon, an almost impossible ambition for a woman of that era. Mary is repeatedly turned down for admission to numerous medical schools for simply being a woman. When Dorothea Dix persuades Abraham Lincoln to allow her to recruit a band of female nurses to serve alongside the army ...more
Jun 03, 2014 Carol rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Carol by: Judy Morganroth
Most of my GR friends rated this 3 star. Most did not comment so I'm not certain what kept them from giving My Name is Mary Sutter a higher rating. A solid 4 for me. Length and a bit too much war kept it from a 5 star rating though that might not be entirely fair. After all this is as much a story of the men of the Civil War as it is historical fiction of a determined young woman with aspirations of becoming a surgeon. The war is a perfect backdrop for this as where else might Mary have achieved ...more
Mary Sutter is from a well-to-do family in Albany New York and the females in her family have been midwives for generations, but Mary dreams the impossible dream of being a surgeon. When the sabers rattle between the North and the South and the men of Albany gleefully join the Army, Mary heads for Washington City - if she can't be a surgeon she'll nurse instead - and she is soon literally up to her neck in wounded soldiers. Mary's story takes her to several battlefields and through her eyes we s ...more
Engrossing read, rich with historical detail, My Name is Mary Sutter tells the story of a woman determined to be a surgeon and how the Civil War gives her the chance to enter the male-dominated medical field.

While I think it's high time the North had an answer to the high-spirited and strong-willed Scarlett O'Hara, Mary Sutter is not quite it. She is determined (although it's never made quite clear why, and her desire waxes and wanes oddly) but she's not as likable (or as unlikeable) as Scarlet
My name is Mary Sutter is a book centered in Upstate New York and Washington during the civil war.
I am prefacing this review with the statement that I have read little Historical fiction to which romance was not a major factor in the story. This book is not one of those.
The book is extremely well written and I enjoyed the author’s style greatly. I learned a lot from the book and I learned to love both Mary and the other players in the story.
I could have done without the viewpoint of the Presi
Tara Chevrestt
This is a good book, just not great. Mary Sutter is a young lady in a country on the verge of a civil war. She is also an excellent midwife and has the preposterous idea that she can be a surgeon in a world in which women are not even accepted as nurses yet. Mary will not be deterred, however. She goes to hospital after hospital, appeals to surgeon after surgeon. In a way, the war is just what Mary needs, as suddenly her services are needed at the Union Hotel aka Pestilence Palace where many wou ...more
Joy H.
Added 11/27/12
I wrote the following at my GR Book Group:
11/27/12-I've started reading My Name is Mary Sutter (2010) by Robin Oliveira. It's the December selection of our local Crandall Library's Monday Night Book Group.
I'm on p. 10 and it's drawn me in already.

NOTE: I finished reading this book sometime in January 2013.
It was a wonderful read!

"An enthralling historical novel about a young woman's struggle to become a doctor during the Civil War." FROM: http://ww
This Civil War story was good for its historical information and insight about what it could have been like in the trenches of that war (there are some graphic scenes). The story centered around a young woman's quest to become a surgeon during this time. While her perseverance in pursuing her dreams against all odds was admirable, I needed more from her character in order to connect with her. And because of that, I didn't connect very well with the love story either. It is possible that a fan of ...more
Ms. Oliveira is skilled at creating compelling characters and depicting complex and emotional relationships. I found myself caring for the characters she created in this story.

We meet the single minded Mary Sutter in 1860, when she is twenty years old, already an accomplished and renown midwife, she wants to become a surgeon. She has applied to the Albany Medical College and been rejected. The Civil War is about to change the course of history and Mary Sutter will find opportunity in the suffer
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The story moved at a good pace until around the last 75 pages or so, when it became slow and cumbersome. Perhaps the author was trying to mirror the end of the war itself? In any case, the novel was well-researched and when Oliveira wasn’t inserting melodramatic scenes of what she imagines Lincoln felt at his son’s death or when he was planning on writing the Emancipation Proclamation, the story moved seamlessly between chapters detailing historical events an ...more
The story of Mary Sutter details her life and struggle to become a doctor and a surgeon in the mid-19th century USA. She's a twin and her mother is of the female tradition of midwifery within her family. While her sister, Jenny, doesn't take to the family skill, Mary absolutely does and wants to know more. Solid, interesting story and strong characterizations of a male Civil War, Mary's mentor, surgeon and her brother-in-law Northern soldier, as well as that of Mary and her own family. It's easy ...more
This novel was truly wonderful. Mary Sutter, the strong heroine, is a woman to be both admired and pitied. She wants a life she can not have and when she does follow her dream it becomes the nightmare of the Civil War. Robin Olivera has done a remarkable job of writing that is able to capture your imagination. In fact many of the war scenes described are not for the faint of heart. Mary succeeds not only as a surgeon in the end, but also as a woman who finally finds the peace and the love of a g ...more
Jul 31, 2014 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes historical fiction
Recommended to Mary by: Library Book Sale
Mary Sutter is a brilliant, headstrong midwife from Albany, New York, who has aspirations of becoming a surgeon. Determined to overcome the inherent prejudices against women in medicine - and eager to escape her recent heartbreak - Mary leaves home and travels to Washington, D. C. to help tend to the legions of Civil War wounded. Under the guidance of William Stipp and James Blevins - two surgeons who unwittingly fall in love with Mary's courage, will, and stubbornness in the face of suffering - ...more
I really enjoyed this book because it gave great insight into the role of women during the time of the Civil War.She fights for the right to live her dream of becoming a surgeon and devotes all she has to nursing those battle damaged bodies.She refuses to give up,pursues her goals and risks her life to that end-a true unsung heroine.
Mary Sutter is a courageous character who has choices to make; choices between family loyalty and following her dream of becoming a surgeon. She is self-sacrificing, persevering, and just plain 'gutsy', but, like most women, she also is not so caught up with her own ambition that she fails to second-guess the choices she makes (and agonize over the consequences).

It is hard for me to rate this book! It certainly kept my interest, especially as I progressed through it. I kept reading to find out i
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 20, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Book Club
“In some ways I liked the struggle better, I think. It clarified what was important.”
This was my first time reading a novel by Robin Oliveira, and it won't be my last. Maybe I came to this story at the right time to receive it so well, but I couldn't put it down. I enjoy historical fiction (reading it and writing it), so I could really appreciate the level of research that Ms. Oliveira conducted to be able to write so fluidly about the American Civil War, medical procedures in the 1860s, and cultural noms of the time. I never felt that these facts were being shoehorned into the ...more
Originally published at:

My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
Viking, 2010
364 pages
Historical Fiction; Civil War; Literary Fiction
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Mary Sutter is a very talented midwife who would like to be a surgeon. But that isn't going to happen in 1860. Yet the outbreak of war (and a personal heartbreak) inspire Mary to leave for the front and pursue her dream.

Thoughts: First it was really nice to see a Civil War story that focuses
Oh. My. Goodness. What an unforgettable book. Author Robin Oliveira has created a heroine unlike any other and a powerful story that captures the despair, horror and agony of one of the bloodiest battles in American history.

The year is 1861. Mary Sutter, a remarkable midwife trained by her mother, dreams of becoming a surgeon but is refused entrance to medical schools or to be apprenticed by a doctor. When the Civil War breaks out between the North and South, Mary Sutter leaves the comforts of h
My rating of four stars should be considered to be on the low side of four. The book takes place during the Civil War in the Washington D.C. area, and is an inspiring tale of a woman's struggle to advance from that of a talented midwife to a "surgeon." She is turned down from schools and interning with other doctors until the need for talented help during the war propels her upwards toward her goal. Her life was extremely difficult under impossible circumstances of war where there is no medicine ...more
Living on another continent and belonging to a similar western culture, I’ve always been very fascinated by American history, and that’s why I’m so glad this book caught my attention. Even before I read it, this book spoke to my imagination, and let me tell you, I was not disappointed.
Through the story of this extraordinary young woman, who wants the impossible (that is becoming a surgeon in 1861); I was able to learn more about the Civil War and a few of its main players. Although it was somet
Megan Marie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Bouley
This was a fabulous book. Mary Sutter is a woman from an upper class family in Albany who, like her mother and other female ancestors before her, is a skilled midwife. Her work, though fulfilling is drawing her to learn more and become a surgeon, but in the time leading up to the civil war that option is not open for women. Mary presses on with her goal, meeting with doctors and medical schools only to be denied over and over. She commiserates with her neighbor, Thomas, and begins to feel stirri ...more
Jun 23, 2011 Carolyn rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Carolyn by: Mom
I can see why history buffs would like this book a lot, but frankly, it wasn't my cup of tea. Very strong on historical details of battles, hospital conditions and medical procedures, but a bit too detailed for my tastes. Intense descriptions of the disgusting conditions in which people lay dying, this book is not for the faint of heart.
I didn't much like the characters, didn't like the resolution of their stories, and the interpersonal details of the characters relating to each other seemed wea
Holly Weiss
Not a nurse, not a doctor, but definitely driven...

Mary Sutter drives a wedge into convention, opening for herself the door of undaunted, faithful service to the ill and injured solders she treats. Mary Sutter is a woman you won’t soon forget after you turn the last page of Robin Oliveira’s book. A woman with a dream that wouldn’t die, her persistence, intelligence and candor drove her undeterred from a relatively safe career as a midwife in Albany to the throws of the battlefield hospitals duri
Adelaide Mackenzie Fuss
Dreary! Why does she really want to be a doctor? Because she had a start as a midwife? This question is never truly answered. The joy of medicine and the deep intrigue of the most amazing machine on the planet, the human body, is never examined. From the perspective of this novel, medicine is the worst occupation possible. This is the author's slant on it. Dark book. The soul of a physician is NOT examined. Mary Sutter is purely ambitious for no other reason other than she has skills and few rom ...more
{4.5 stars}
Every now and then you come across one of those stories that make you want to shout from the roof tops: THIS IS A FANTASTIC BOOK!!!!!!! This is one of those times for me. I was so totally emotionally tied in to this story as it swept from one person to another, yet it always came back to Mary Sutter. Set in the horrific days of America's Civil War, this is a timeless tale that is fraught with grief and emotion, where the entire undercurrent was despair throughout the novel. This is no
For those who thought that Gone with the Wind epitomized a fictional authoritative chronicle before and during the Civil War, in this tumultuous period of our own current history, it is clear that My Name is Mary Sutter, has commendably garnered a pinnacle in what this voracious generation desires to know.

In a magnificent debut novel, Robin Oliveria offers an unsurpassed entre into one woman’s unrelenting quest to ascend from mere acceptable midwifery to a 19th century avant-garde physician and
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Robin Oliveira grew up just outside Albany, New York in Loudonville. She holds a B.A. in Russian, and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow, Russia. She is also a Registered Nurse, specializing in Critical Care and Bone Marrow Transplant. She received an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the fiction editor for the literary magazine upstreet and a former assis ...more
More about Robin Oliveira...
I Always Loved You Doctoring History Upstreet number four

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“In some ways I liked the struggle better, I think. It clarified what was important.” 13 likes
“For all the things we say to our children for their own good, very little good ever comes of it.” 4 likes
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