Recommended: My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

mary sutter

Goodreads Summary

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 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 Sutter powerfully evokes the atmosphere of the period. Rich with historical detail (including marvelous depictions of Lincoln, Dorothea Dix, General McClellan, 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 Thoughts

Simply put, this book is amazing. The kind of book that stays with you, truly unforgettable. Robin Oliveira’s writing is gorgeous and deeply emotional. The characters, every one, even secondary ones, are vibrant and real. And the history of medicine at the time of the Civil War is fascinating and grotesque. With no working knowledge of infections, medical sanitation, doctors went from man to man, amputating limbs with the same knife and unwashed hands. Several times, I got the chills while reading this book.

If you love historical fiction, this masterfully written book is a must-read!

Content note: War violence and injuries, detailed medical descriptions of injuries and crude surgeries, two F-words.

Robin Oliveira has a new book out TOMORROW! Check out, I ALWAYS LOVED YOU, a novel of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas’s great romance. 


This was our family book club’s most recent read and my sister Carol, a registered nurse, hosted and it was an epic night. Here’s a few fun pictures from our book club.

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A Civil War battlefield tent and fire. We walked into the dark gym and saw this fire ‘burning,’ and soldiers standing around it, before we went to the ‘hospital’ set up.

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The crude medical instruments display in the ‘hospital,’ including Doctor Blevens microscope.

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My father playing Doctor Stipp, a war surgeon, prepping a leg for amputation.

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The favors – pill boxes (candy) and jello shots.

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Our actors, soldiers and nurses. Thanks, Maren, Alex, Paul, and Maddie (Joss and Austin)!


One thought on “Recommended: My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

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