My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)
My Name is Mary Sutter sat on my bookshelf for over a year before I finally picked it up to read it. I ordered it through PBS because I heard so many positive things about it but I just never seemed to be in the right mood to take it on. Reading about medical treatment during the Civil War just doesn’t sound like that uplifting of a read. But I was wrong.
Mary Sutter is a strong-willed young woman coming into her own at the beginning of the Civil War. Mary is an accomplished midwife, taught by her mother and revered by many for her strength and tenacity. But being an excellent midwife is not enough; Mary wants to be a surgeon. All she needs is someone in the medical field to believe in her and her abilities. She searches for a surgeon who will be willing to teach her. After being repeatedly rejected, she decides to join the movement of Dorothea Dix and serve as a nurse to the injured soldiers of the Civil War.
Before leaving her home in Albany, Mary suffers several losses. Her father passes away and she loses her love to another. She doesn’t want to suffer the loss of her dream and takes every action possible to see that doesn’t happen. She embarks on a journey that will see her grow as a woman, a medical professional, a sister, and a daughter.
While some passages of this novel were difficult to read because of the nature of the topic, the overall scope of the novel is one of hope. In the difficult passages, the reader is taken back to the horrific days of suffering during the war. The sheer volume of injured soldiers so few men and women were capable of treating is staggering. But through the suffering and turmoil there were people giving all they could give to make a positive difference. And not only did they give of themselves, and sometimes all they had, some of them remain unknown. My Name is Mary Sutter allows the reader to think about some of those unknown heroes of the war: the ones who don’t have monuments dedicated to their service and didn’t have family to keep their stories alive. The character of Mary Sutter embodies the memory of all of those men and women and gives them the recognition they so richly deserve.