Monday, December 19, 2011

Book Club Review - My Name is Mary Sutter

Robin Oliveira has written an unflinching piece of civil war fiction. Mary Sutter, a supremely skilled midwife, is focused on her goal of becoming a surgeon in a time when the idea of women nurses was controversial. She is a tough woman struggling to follow her natural calling.

As the book opens, the South has just attacked Fort Sumter. Men of all classes are enlisting in what is expected to be a three-month engagement where the south will be quickly beaten. Mary, having been turned down everywhere else, approaches Dr. James Blevins about an apprenticeship. He turns her down, ostensibly because he plans to enlist as an army surgeon. Mary heads south without the help or support of her family to help in the hospitals in DC. Even there she is rebuffed until there is a desparate need.

Mary receives her apprenticeship, but it is with a very high price. She must make difficult choices and endure unimaginable conditions. Most of the book club members liked My Name is Mary Sutter. The historical detail (which I liked tremendously) was a shocking reminder of how ill-prepared the United States was for war. For some members, the graphic details of the hospitals and surgeries were difficult. Several of the characters, including Mary's twin seemed thinnly drawn, but it is Mary and her tenacity which move the story forward. Her persistence and courage carry her and the reader through to the end.

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