MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER

Robin Oliveira

Mary Sutter is a brilliant young midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon. Eager to run away from recent heartbreak, Mary travels to Washington, D.C., to help tend the legions of Civil War wounded. Under the guidance of two surgeons, who both fall unwittingly in love with her, and resisting her mother’s pleas to return home to help with the difficult birth of her twin sister’s baby, Mary pursues her medical career against all odds. Rich with historical detail-including cameo appearances by Abraham Lincoln and Dorothea Dix, among others-My Name Is Mary Sutter is certain to be recognized as one of the great novels about the Civil War.

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Mary Sutter is a brilliant young midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon. Eager to run away from recent heartbreak, Mary travels to Washington, D.C., to help tend the legions of Civil War wounded. Under the guidance of two surgeons, who both fall unwittingly in love with her, and resisting her mother’s pleas to return home to help with the difficult birth of her twin sister’s baby, Mary pursues her medical career against all odds. Rich with historical detail-including cameo appearances by Abraham Lincoln and Dorothea Dix, among others-My Name Is Mary Sutter is certain to be recognized as one of the great novels about the Civil War.

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  • Penguin
  • Paperback
  • March 2011
  • 384 Pages
  • 9780143119135

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About Robin Oliveira

Robin Oliveira grew up just outside Albany, New York in Loudonville. She holds a B.A. in Russian, and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow, Russia. She is also a Registered Nurse, specializing in Critical Care and Bone Marrow Transplant. She received an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the fiction editor for the literary magazine upstreet and a former assistant editor at Narrative Magazine. She was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship in 2007 for her debut novel-in-progress, My Name is Mary Sutter, then entitled The Last Beautiful Day, an excerpt of which appeared in the 2008 issue of Provincetown Arts. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband, Andrew Oliveira, and two children, Noelle and Miles, who are away at college.

Praise

“…This impressive historical epic deserves a large readership.”—Booklist

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

“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 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

Discussion Questions

1. The end of My Name Is Mary Sutter is both satisfying and surprising. What was your response to the conclusion of each character’s story?

2. Women’s rights have greatly expanded since Mary’s time, but do you believe that women are still limited by prejudice as to what they can or should do professionally? Do you believe men and women should have different roles or responsibilities within society?

3. Beyond Mary, which character did you find the most interesting? Why? Which character did you find the least interesting?

4. Blevens explains that he cannot accept Mary as an apprentice because of the Civil War. Do you believe he would have taken her on had the the war not begun? Why?

5. As a woman and midwife, Mary has a particular kind of medical knowledge; Blevens and Stipp have another. What are the values and limitations of each? How does Mary eventually blend the two?

6. Describe Mary and Jenny’s relationship. What type of tensions exist? Consider the relationship from both women’s perspectives.

7. “From labor to death, she thought, despite every moment at the breast, every reprimand, every tender tousle of hair, every fever fought, every night spent worrying, it came to this: you couldn’t protect your children from anything, not even from each other” (p. 43). Do you believe Amelia is right? What experiences from your own life make you feel this way?

8. How is Dr. Blevens affected by his experiences during the Civil War?

9. From Jake to Thomas to William Stipp, there is a wide range of male characters in the novel. What type of masculinity does each demonstrate?

10. Have you ever struggled with the same kind of professional or personal obstacles that Mary does? How did you handle it? What did you learn from the experience?