Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira (Rated: P mild and V for war scenes)
Viking USA
ISBN: 978-0-670021673
Published May 18, 2010
Hardcover, 384 pages

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 her home to escape from a recent heartbreak and to help take care of the injured soldiers in Washington and eventually right in the battlefield.

What ensues is a riveting tale that pulled at my heartstrings for the loss and despair that the characters lived through. I admired Mary’s perseverance and self-sacrifice when faced with heart-wrenching decisions, and I shook my head in stupefied disbelief and sorrow at the carnage and futility the soldiers and surgeons faced on the battlefields. And apart from being severely prejudiced, it was brainless of the institutions to initially keep the women from nursing or doctoring the men. After all, women experience childbirth and are used to the sight of blood.

Oliveira’s writing is brutally honest and she doesn’t spare details of the amputations performed in the crudest environments, but I never felt it was gratuitous or glorified. The scenes were from a medical point of view, and I marvelled at how doctors worked bone-tiring endless hours day and night with limited medical knowledge and few supplies and still saved lives. The imagery was vivid and I was transported to that time in history. I could smell the acrid smoke of the gunfire, feel the misery and hopelessness, see the deplorable hospital conditions and hear the desperate cry of the dying young men. The author weaved historical details beautifully into the story including scenes with President Lincoln and General McClellan.

But ultimately, My Name is Mary Sutter is not a book about war, but one about choosing to be the person you think you could be. It’s about a young woman who pursued her medical career in the face of great obstacles, proving she was a doctor at heart. It made me appreciate the countless doctors who strive to improve the medical profession and perform amazing feats to save and preserve lives. An excellent read.

Disclosure: Thanks to Barbara Bower from Penguin Group Canada for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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  1. WOW! You make me want to read this. Thank you for the recommendation!

    (We have returned from our little trip, but I am still taking the week off from blogging at LLL.)

  2. Great Review! Funnily enough, I posted this same book today and felt the same as you about it. Fabulous book.

  3. This sounds fantastic! Another blogger shared her copy with me, so it's in my TBR pile. It sounds like it needs to be moved up a couple of notches.

  4. Wasn't this wonderful??!!
    My review is here:


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