Robin Oliveira

My Name Is Mary Sutter

My Name Is Mary Sutter

In this stunning historical 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.

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Robin Oliveira


Critical Praise

"The Civil War offers a 20-year-old midwife the medical experience she craves, plus hard work and heartbreak, in this rich debut...Oliveira depicts the amputation of a leg, the delivery of a baby, and soldierly life; these are among the fine details that set this novel above the gauzier variety of Civil War fiction."
   —Publishers Weekly

"Oliveira's graceful, assured portrayal of a courageous woman shines through in her outstanding debut novel.... This impressive historical epic deserves a large readership."

"Oliveira deftly depicts the chaotic aftermath of battles and develops her own characters while incorporating military and political leaders of the time. The historic details enrich the narrative without overshadowing Mary's struggles. [A] well-written and compelling debut that will engage all readers of historical fiction."
   —Library Journal

"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."
   —Historical Novels Review (Editor's Choice)

"[A] captivating narrative of medicine in the midst of nineteenth-century warfare...Oliveira's wonderful imaginary tale should be read for historical insight as much as for its artful storytelling."
   —The Journal of the American Medical Association

"At the center of Robin Oliveira's enthralling and well-researched debut novel is an ambitious young woman who refuses to accept the limited roles women played in the field of medicine during the mid-nineteenth century...The book's sensuous language, wealth of period details, and unflinching description of battles like Manassas and Antietam place in solidly in the ranks of the best historical fiction."
   —The Atlanta Journal Constitution

"My Name Is Mary Sutter is a riveting, well-researched novel about a young nurse during the Civil War. The incredibly vivid details and well-drawn characters create a story that resonates long after the last page is turned."
   —Family Circle

"The title of Robin Oliveira's debut historical novel, My Name Is Mary Sutter, perfectly evokes its eponymous heroine's style: clear, determined, and unlike most women of the Civil War era, unapologetically direct."
   —O, the Oprah Magazine

"Oliveira's compelling voice...does a splendid job of reminding us how much the known world has changed—and how much it has not."
   —Portland Oregonian

Publishing Praise

"My Name Is Mary Sutter is a remarkable book, one of the most assured first novels I've read in a long, long time. Robin Oliveira brings the Civil War era vividly alive, and her heroine is a character who, once encountered, few readers will forget. Bravo!"
   —Ron Rash author of Serena, Saints at the River

"In My Name Is Mary Sutter it seems as though Robin Oliveria brought Mary Sutter back to life rather than imagined her. With her description of the Sutter home, the reader becomes a guest at the dinner table. This is a finely written novel of the medical failings and opportunities presented by the war. But it is really the story of a woman who lives her life with the passion and stubbornness needed to take her through the strains of battlefield hospital work, through her grief for family loses and the war wounded; it is the story of the extraordinary need that propels her to become a surgeon. Even in the darkest days, Mary's enormous compassion and healing touch shine forth. Thank you so much for sharing it with me."
   —Mary Gay Shipley, owner of That Bookstore in Blytheville

"Oliveira's voice is urgently compelling in its detail and so authentically pitched, she might have been transported directly from the tumult of Civil War Washington to report this story."
   —Debra Dean, author of The Madonnas of Leningrad

"My Name Is Mary Sutter is a magnificent Civil War epic, a saga of female liberation and a gorgeous love story. Mary Sutter's quest to become a surgeon when women were barely allowed to be nurses is one of the great untold stories of American history. She is indomitable, fearless and captivating. From Ireland's Corners, New York, to the over-crowded hospitals of Washington to battlefield surgeries to a meeting with Abraham Lincoln himself, Mary Sutter's progress is gritty and passionate—a riveting read."
   —Douglas Glover, author of Elle

"There's more than a whiff of the classic in Robin Oliveira's charming, compulsively readable historical tale about Mary Sutter, a young midwife and aspiring physician making her way through Lincoln's war—a new iconic American heroine."
   —Janice Lee, author of The Piano Teacher

"My Name Is Mary Sutter is a powerful debut—equally compelling for its portrayal of the horrors of surgery during the Civil War as it is for its human drama. Mary Sutter is unforgettable, not just because she's quirky, odd and persistent in her quest to be a surgeon, but also because she is alive inside anyone who knows what it is to dream."
   —Xu Xi, author of The Unwalled City

"I am deeply impressed by My Name Is Mary Sutter. Oliveira weaves the strands of civil war history, history of medicine into a novel with dynamic and believable characters. Mary is a wonderful heroine, with extraordinary gifts and weaknesses too. That every man is in love with her is no wonder. A thrilling debut."
   —Carla Cohen, Politics and Prose Bookstore

"A vivid, dramatic novel about love, medicine, and the Civil War, My Name Is Mary Sutter features an indomitable, memorable heroine whom the reader will root for until the very end."
   —David Ebershoff, author of The 19th Wife and The Danish Girl

Viking, hardcover, May 2010, ISBN: 9780670021673
Penguin, paperback, March 2011, ISBN: 9781611290608