My Name is Mary Sutter (Viking, 2010), Robin Oliveira’s debut novel, is the engrossing story of  19th-century woman who wants nothing more than to be a surgeon, in an era when such ambitions were nearly impossible to realize. Mary’s considerable skills as a midwife notwithstanding, she is turned away by institutions and individuals who might provide medical training. Instead, she boldly throws herself into the crucible of Civil War Washington and begins working as a nurse. In the grimmest most heart-breaking of surroundings, she finally finds a teacher and mentor. Mary perserveres, learns, and matures.

Thoroughly researched and with a solidly-crafted narrative, My Name is Mary Sutter’s strongest suit is its fully fleshed-out characters. Mary, her family, and her circle will remain with you long after you have turned the final page on this excellent historical novel.