Robin Oliveira's debut novel, My Name is Mary Sutter, is a tightly crafted narrative that opens on the eve of the Civil War and moves swiftly enough to keep the reader from being bogged down by historical facts and data—a remarkable feat for a new or seasoned author. Civil War stories tend to have a predictable script, but Oliveira's novel isn't a Margaret Mitchell remake: The war is merely the backdrop for the love triangles she sets up before the first three chapters have ended.
At the outset, Mary Sutter is a midwife in Albany, N.Y., but after five years of apprenticeship on the gory battlefields of Virginia she's a surgeon and doctor. Oliveira gives Raleigh native Dorothea Dix a cameo appearance as a formidable force unwilling to give Mary Sutter a position as one of her nurses.
While I would have enjoyed deeper development of Mary Sutter's character, Oliveira's debut is intriguing; add it to your summer reading list. Her Q-and-A and reading begins at noon. —Rebekah L. Cowell