Monday, February 20, 2012

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

Mary Sutter is a midwife, who has been trained by her mother, and is the best around.  She also wants to be a surgeon, but no one will accept her to medical school or let her apprentice.  But the civil war has just begun and so she leaves to be a nurse.  What follows is an informative story about the horrible conditions and lack of supplies medics worked under during those times.

The book is also the story of the Sutter family who is grieving the loss of their father.  Their interactions and decisions move the story.  Mary, her twin sister Jenny, younger brother Christian and her mother Amelia live in Albany together.  Mary is a like able character, and you do empathize with her family members.  But it almost felt like there was just too much going on to really pick favorites or decide which character you liked best.

The story is told by an omniscient narrator, which allows you to have insight into the thoughts and motivations of several characters.  I liked this, but again, I felt like I had a lot of information, and I didn't fall in love with anyone.  Even so, I enjoyed the book, I liked the characters, and I felt compelled to keep reading.

Mary is spunky, as she challenges a doctor who won't apprentice her, "In your opinion, is there a limit to how much knowledge one person is allowed to accumulate?  Have I reached my quota?"

I love it.

As Mary reflects how after the hard work of birth, she doesn't remember the horrors, but "the gasp of love when at last the mother encircled the infant in her arms."

If you like historical fiction, I think you'll like this book.  I remember reading little books about Clara Barton and Florence Nightengale when I was a kid.  This is a great expansion of those little snippets I learned.  I love the glimpses into the doctors who were really figuring things out.  Trying to solve the mysteries of the human body and to save lives. 

I liked the choices that Mary made.  She had been brought up in comfort, but had worked tirelessly as a midwife.  She didn't take no for an answer, or accept her current life as the only one available to her.  Instead she worked hard.  She did what no one else wanted to do, and ultimately it paid off. 

One complaint about the keep falling in love with Mary.  She's not pretty, they are quick to point out, but there's something about her.  I think this is kind of annoying.  I'm starting to feel like it's a common theme.  Remember how Jane Eyre is like that?

This is my current theory.  The women who write these books, and maybe those of us who read them, want to believe that being clever, skilled, educated, all of these things is more attractive to men then outward beauty.  Which I think is true in real life.  But the way it is written, it feels phony, in the same way falling in love at first site feels forced.

There's a great conversation, which is kind of a turning point because the Doctor is taking her seriously instead of being delicate around her.  He says, "You want to be a surgeon?  To be a surgeon is to look a man in the eye and tell him the truth.  If you can't do that, then get out of here.  Go home.....It is all butchery. Every bit of it."  Then, "Choose who you are, choose who you'll be."

1 comment:

Sara said...

Not crazy about this one. Seemed kind of cliche. Gone with the Wind is better!