My Name Is Mary Sutter: A Novel, Robin Oliveira, Viking Publishing, 384 pages, $26.95,
Well versed in the scholarship of Civil War era medicine and urban life, My Name Is Mary Sutter offers a well defined historical setting with characters that have struggles common to men and women in any era. Oliveira's novel is enjoyable for readers are looking for a medical setting, a romance, and a war story with civilians playing a major role.
There is no gratuitous battlefield violence but stark pictures of midwifery and battlefield surgery. At times the characters carry themselves forward but at other times the author gives them a shove into action. The hearts and hands of male doctors and female nurses are often in conflict in this 19th century setting. For this reader, the tour of Washington D.C. hospitals and a tragic fire were compelling episodes. My Name is Mary Sutter has both unique and stock characters described at times with a fine dramatic pace and at times with tedious slowness. Overall, My Name Is Mary Sutter repays the reader for the time invested. After all, Graham Greene [notable British author] described his own work as primarily 'entertainments.' My Name Is Mary Sutter achieves that.