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My Name Is Mary Sutter: A Novel by Robin…
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My Name Is Mary Sutter: A Novel (edition 2010)

by Robin Oliveira

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894679,875 (3.78)46
Member:tututhefirst
Title:My Name Is Mary Sutter: A Novel
Authors:Robin Oliveira
Info:Viking Adult (2010), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Audio books, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:historical fiction, civil war

Work details

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

Recently added bybjoelle5, private library, Shazarah, thukpa, CydMelcher
  1. 30
    The March by E. L. Doctorow (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both novels show the medical side of the war, from the surgeon's and nurses points of view, albeit that the view in Mary Sutter is much grittier.
  2. 20
    The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both these books reminded me of how lucky I was to be born in the latter part of the 20th Century when medicine had been so greatly improved.
  3. 10
    Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  4. 00
    The Birth House by Ami McKay (saratoga99)
  5. 00
    The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
Fascinating book. I loved the details about the Civil War and the character development. For many people, there may be too many bloody, medical descriptions, but it's impressive and so pertinent to the story. ( )
  Connie-D | Jan 17, 2016 |
My Name is Mary Sutter is the story of a New York midwife who becomes a nurse to soldiers of the Union Army, men who were more likely to die from infections than they were from gunshots. Mary's ultimate goal is to become a surgeon at a time when women in America were not admitted to medical schools. The novel begins with Mary’s failed attempt to apprentice herself to James Blevens, a surgeon in Albany. In a related plot, Mary also decides to leave New York due to the upcoming marriage of her twin sister to the young man Mary loves. Mary’s service as a volunteer nurse in the Washington D.C. And her fierce desire to learn the art of surgery drives the plot along with the ripple effects of war. She's eventually assigned to the Union Hotel hospital in Georgetown where she crosses paths with Dr. William Stipp. Together they try to bring order to the hygiene-deficient hospital under challenging conditions. Eventually Mary works her way onto the battlefield and learns what it means to be a surgeon.

While the novel is told mostly from Mary’s point of view we do get some chapters involving Abraham Lincoln, George McClellan and his staff that give us some background on the difficult decisions of the war. The author's research into mid-19th century medical procedures seemed very authentic. There was lots of information on the surgical practices, the filth of army hospitals and the desperation of doctors fully aware that they didn't have knowledge necessary to save their patients. I liked the character of Mary, who seemed very heroic without being too saintly. She was sympathetic but not always likable. I really enjoyed this book and plan to check out another one by this author.
( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
Audio performed by Kimberly Farr
3.5 Stars

This is a work of historical fiction, centering on Mary Sutter, a midwife in Albany, New York, who is determined to become a surgeon. As the novel opens the Civil War is just beginning and she has been turned down, yet again, by the only medical school in Albany. Mary decides to seek an apprenticeship with a practicing surgeon, and so appears at the door of Dr James Blevin’s clinic just as he was about to send for her to help deliver a woman whose labor is not going well. She saves the mother and child and impresses Blevins with her knowledge and skill. However, Blevins is about to enlist as an Army surgeon and insists he cannot accommodate her request that he teach her what he knows. This refusal only strengthens Mary’s determination, however, and when she sees an advertisement for nurses she heads to Washington.

I really enjoyed this book and was drawn in immediately. I particularly appreciated the information Oliveira included about the very poor state of medical care, and how what was learned by Army surgeons on the battlefield helped to change the practice of medicine. There were times, as I listened, that I wanted to yell to the characters,“Wash your hands! Use a clean cloth!” I felt enervated by the seemingly never-ending horrors of war witnessed by these brave men and women, despite my obvious distance from the actual events. Their tireless service in the face of impossible odds was commendable. That they had any success at all, given their ignorance of the infectious process, and their lack of supplies (seems that the most heavily used “medication” was whiskey) was nothing short of miraculous. The writing was vivid, and the aftermath of the battles – thousands of dead and wounded, laid so closely together it was nearly impossible to walk among them – called to my mind the scene from the movie of Gone With the Wind when Scarlett goes in search of the doctor for Melanie and the camera crane zooms out to show a screen filled with thousands waiting for any little comfort.

Oliveira doesn’t just write about war and medicine, however. Her characters have to deal with various weaknesses and emotions – pride, guilt, sibling rivalry, impetuousness, fear (and even cowardice), snobbery, ineptitude, joy, excitement and love. There is underlying romantic tension between Mary and certain male characters, which I found a little distracting and unnecessary to the basic story. However, I’ll admit that I have always been interested in reading about medicine and that was much more interesting to me than her love life.

Kimberly Farr did an excellent job of reading the audio book. She had a somewhat limited range with the male voices, but was credible and it was still easy to distinguish among the characters when there were two- or even three-way conversations.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
Mary Sutter is a midwife who wants to know more about the human body works. She tries to get into medical schools, but is not even considered because she is a woman. She finally finds a doctor to apprentice with at the Union Hotel, turned hospital in the early days of the Civil War. The author's description of the hospitals, the wounds, and the primitive nature of medicine at the time are eye-opening. It's amazing anyone survived. The battle scenes and conditions of the soldiers are also not at all romanticized. This is an interesting read, although Mary Sutter herself is a bit beyond belief as she sacrifices so much for the soldiers. As a epilogue, we see her a few years after the war with her own medical practice in Manhattan, her remaining family gathered around her, and her old mentor finding her to pledge his undying love. I kind of liked her single better. ( )
  mojomomma | Sep 25, 2015 |
Lately I have been cruising through audio books, but this one took awhile. While I wanted to know what was going to happen, there were so many parts that were just so tedious. Perhaps this is a book better read than listened to. The narrator was good with the different voices, but very slow. Also, much of the descriptions were very repetitive. Clearly, the author really wants us to know that Mary was not an attractive woman by conventional standards. ( )
  spincerely | Apr 26, 2015 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Drew, whose love and generosity never falter,
and for my mother,
who bequeathed me her muse
First words
"Are you Mary Sutter?"
Quotations
When they were younger, they played with the children of the laboring mother; when they were older, they hauled and boiled water, listened to birthing cries in houses high and low, becoming accustomed to joy being predicted on misery. This accounted for their assured nature; prescient, possessed, they would later feel at home anywhere and in the face of anything.
Mary unfurled was formidable and her family all knew it and, it seemed, sometimes despaired of it.
Mary inhaled the information her mother dispensed. Centuries of wisdom resided in Amelia's muscles. Often, when Mary asked questions, Amelia could not answer unless she was in the act itself, able to remember only as she performed. Instinct as textbook.
Mary could see him making the comparison, not unlike everyone else who ever heard the word twin in the presence of the two of them. The envy she thought she had mastered years ago opened inside her, swelling and pressing against her diaphragm, making it hard to breathe while she tallied which of her inadequacies stood out the most...
January of 1862, when Jenny was due, would be the busiest month for midwives in ten years. Farewell babies, they would be called. Three months later, in April, there would be another round of newborns nine months after Lincoln called for yet another hundred thousand men.
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Book description
Twenty-year-old Mary Sutter, a midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon, leaves her home in Albany, New York, and travels to Washington, D.C., where she is taken on as an assistant to chief surgeon William Stipp at a Union hospital, and earns his admiration and love.
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Traveling to Civil War-era Washington, D.C., to tend wounded soldiers and pursue her dream of becoming a surgeon, headstrong midwife Mary receives guidance from two smitten doctors and resists her mother's pleas for her to return home.

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