Discussion: My Name Is Mary Sutter

We’re starting off the book club by reading My Name Is Mary Sutter together. I’ve invited Jennifer Vitti to write a review when she finishes – thanks for offering, Jen!

I’ll plan to introduce a new book every other month, usually on the first of the month. Discussion questions will go up 2-3 weeks later and then we’ll start the conversation. If you feel the desire to review the selected book, just contact me and let me know.

In the meantime, I am posting several discussion questions to get you thinking. Feel free to use these questions for some independent literary analysis (because who doesn’t love a little literary analysis?) and come back here as often as you’d like to respond to the group. Feel free to add in some questions of your own.

If I find that we’ve got a good discussion going in the comments, I’ll open up the forum for some further virtual gabbing. It seems easier to start simple and make sure folks are participating before going through the process of formatting and moderating an actual discussion board.

So without further ado, I welcome you all to our inaugural book club discussion. Thanks for joining us!

  1. The end of My Name Is Mary Sutter is both satisfying and surprising. What was your response to the conclusion of each character’s story?
  2. Women’s rights have greatly expanded since Mary’s time, but do you believe that women are still limited by prejudice as to what they can or should do professionally? Do you believe men and women should have different roles or responsibilities within society?
  3.  Beyond Mary, which character did you find the most interesting? Why? Which character did you find the least interesting?
  4.  Blevens explains that he cannot accept Mary as an apprentice because of the Civil War. Do you believe he would have taken her on had the the war not begun? Why?
  5.  As a woman and midwife, Mary has a particular kind of medical knowledge; Blevens and Stipp have another. What are the values and limitations of each? How does Mary eventually blend the two?
  6. Describe Mary and Jenny’s relationship. What type of tensions exist? Consider the relationship from both women’s perspectives.
  7. “From labor to death, she thought, despite every moment at the breast, every reprimand, every tender tousle of hair, every fever fought, every night spent worrying, it came to this: you couldn’t protect your children from anything, not even from each other” (p. 43). Do you believe Amelia is right? What experiences from your own life make you feel this way?
  8. How is Dr. Blevens affected by his experiences during the Civil War?
  9. From Jake to Thomas to William Stipp, there is a wide range of male characters in the novel. What type of masculinity does each demonstrate?
  10. Have you ever struggled with the same kind of professional or personal obstacles that Mary does? How did you handle it? What did you learn from the experience?

Let’s get crackin’ on some meaningful, fun, non-assigned reading! And then come back here and let’s talk! 🙂

P.S. Please send me requests for further book club choices and general recommendations. I’ll keep a running list of suggestions here.

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