My Name Is Mary Sutter (Paperback)

By Robin Oliveira

Penguin Books, 9780143119135, 384pp.

Publication Date: March 29, 2011

Fall '12 Reading Group List

“On the eve of the Civil War, Albany midwife Mary Sutter desperately wants to be a surgeon. When Dorothea Dix puts out a call for nurses, Mary leaves her family behind and rushes to Washington. Told from the point of view of nurses, family members, and politicians, this novel is an enthralling, exquisitely crafted debut, a story for lovers of historical fiction as well as anyone who believes in the power of the human spirit.”
— Erin Kurup, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY
View the List

May 2010 Indie Next List

“On the eve of the Civil War, Albany midwife Mary Sutter desperately wants to be a surgeon. When Dorothea Dix puts out a call for nurses, Mary leaves her family behind and rushes to Washington. Told from the point of view of nurses, family members, and politicians, this novel is an enthralling, exquisitely crafted debut, a story for lovers of historical fiction as well as anyone who believes in the power of the human spirit.”
— Erin Kurup, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY
View the List
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Description

A moving, New York Times bestselling novel about a young Civil War midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon

Chosen by Good Housekeeping as a Top 10 Good Read

Mary Sutter's story continues in Winter Sisters, coming February 2018 from Viking

Fans of Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, and Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini will love this New York Times bestselling Civil War tale.

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.


About the Author

Robin Oliveira holds a BA in Russian, and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow. She received an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is also a registered nurse, specializing in critical care. She lives in Seattle, Washington. The New York Times bestseller My Name Is Mary Sutter is her first novel.


Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  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?
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