"My Name is Mary Sutter", written by Robin Oliveira, is the story of a second generation midwife who has a single driving desire, to become a doctor. A victim of her time in history, this bright and courageous woman is refused admittance to medical schools and apprenticeships just because she is female. Her spirit is frustrated but not broken.
The characters come to life beautifully as family, love lost, babies born, babies lost, solders, nurses and doctors.
When the Civil War breaks out, Mary is determined to take her medical skills to the field and help the soldiers, with or without permission.
She is eventually able to work with a doctor in one of the makeshift hospitals full of injured and dying men. If you like historical fiction or the Civil War period, this book will capture your attention from beginning to end. I was led to consider so many factors about the war that I was never taught to think about in history class. I had never considered how thousands of men, volunteering for war could be fed, given clean water, or kept healthy when they descended on an area. It is sobering to realize this was a time without electricity, or phone lines, or running water.
I also learned that the most common injury soldiers suffered without being instantly killed was the loss of a leg from being struck by a musket ball. Most of what the field doctor did was amputations. Other injuries mercifully were mortal. The amputations were described with great detail, which again gave me insight into the limits a surgeon had during this period of history. Mary Sutter learned a great deal by assisting the doctor performing amputations in a primitive setting, and I did too! Unfortunately, antibiotics had not yet been invented, so after surviving a brutal amputation, most men died from infection.
Let me state clearly, this is not a gory book. The frank historical information is truth that cannot be ignored. The writer handled it with dignity. Mary is presented as a tireless character whose heart for medicine continued to push her onward through every imaginable heartbreak and set back.
Along with the historical and medical themes, there are are story lines concerning romance, family, and dreams lost and found. I enjoyed every twist and turn of this story, and found Mary Sutter to be a character I will long remember with admiration. Maybe she lived, maybe she didn't, but I have no doubt there were many women like her, unsong heroes in our country's history.