Thursday, June 17, 2010

"My Name Is Mary Sutter"

Robin Oliveria received an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship for a work-in-progress.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, My Name Is Mary Sutter, and reported the following:
The scene on page 69 in My Name is Mary Sutter, my debut novel about a midwife in the Civil War who wants to be a surgeon—a story that includes a family saga, several love stories, and a serious look at the beginning of both modern medicine and modern nursing in America—takes place on the quay in Albany, New York. The railroad that served Manhattan City, as New York City was then called, was in East Albany as it is now, across the Hudson River. It was from the river’s western shore that Albanian mothers bid farewell to members of the historic 25th Regiment, one of whom was Christian Sutter, beloved brother to the titular character and her twin sister, and adored son of their mother Amelia. Amelia is saying good-bye; she fears it is the last time her family will be together.

I can’t think of a better representation for the essence of the novel than this scene, as the Civil War was nothing but heartbreak, especially for women, but mostly for mothers. What follows is a paragraph that bleeds over to page 70.
The Lady of Perth Ferry had just left the dock with another hundred men, but it would return soon, for it would take ten trips to ferry the entire regiment across the swollen Hudson River toward the railroad depot on the far side. On the quay, there was a band, in uniform, and a flag, brilliant blue. The day had the crisp promise of spring; the freshet had receded, leaving the cobbles muddy and slippery. Saying farewell was a noisy business this April morning. There was so much vibrant feeling, a willful ignorance of what was to come. It had been almost a hundred years since Albany had been taken up with a war, and in between there had been years to forget the consequences.
Those consequences are, of course, what will concern the main character Mary Sutter, the doctors with whom she will work, and Amelia, whose heart will, unfortunately, break. The optimism and bravado rampant on the quay will soon fade in the desperate reality to come, into which Mary Sutter willingly steps, in pursuit of her unlikely goal.
Read an excerpt from My Name is Mary Sutter, and learn more about the book and author at Robin Oliveira's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue