The title of Robin Oliveira's debut historical novel, My Name Is Mary Sutter, perfectly evokes its eponymous heroine's style: clear, determined, and, unlike most women of the Civil War era, unapologetically direct. Expected, at most, to follow her mother into local midwifery, Mary has the nerve to want to be a "real" doctor. ("No woman is a surgeon," chides even her admiring twin sister, Jenny.) When Mary's beloved, Thomas, devastates her by choosing the more conventional Jenny as his wife, Mary sets out for Washington, D.C.; perhaps there she can heal herself as well as those wounded in war. Her heartbreak may have given her compassion equal to her excellent medical skills—both of which endear her to two male surgeons along the way—but Mary (who's nothing if not plucky) struggles mightily to achieve her dream. When news of her good works in a D.C. hospital finally wins her a meeting with President Lincoln, he declares: "I have more faith in that young woman than I do in most of my generals." We, of course, felt that way about Mary all along.
— Sara Nelson
Printed from Oprah.com on Monday, December 9, 2013