My Name is Mary Sutter

Written by Robin Oliveira
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

Mary Sutter dreams of becoming a surgeon. She, along with her mother, serves as a midwife for the women of Albany, New York. The problem, however, is that most surgeons are men. When the American Civil War breaks out in 1861, young Mary leaves her mother, twin sister, and brother and travels to Washington D.C. to join Dorothea Dix and her legion of nurses, who are being recruited to attend to sick and wounded soldiers. This book tells the story of Mary’s struggles to achieve her goal.

This is a finely written novel of a passionate but headstrong woman who lets nothing stand in her way. With the help of a mentor, she learns new skills under desperate circumstances, dealing with sick and dying men and, eventually, performing leg amputations. The author uses her knowledge about the war to describe the deplorable conditions under which the medical profession worked. Amputations are described in detail, and these scenes are not for the faint-hearted. The relationships between Mary and her family members, her mentor, and others she meets are exceptionally well done.

This unforgettable novel of the American Civil War should become a classic. I highly recommend My Name Is Mary Sutter to readers who wish to gain a better understanding of the war and its effects on those who lived through it.