Historical Fiction Favorite
THE ENGINEER’S WIFE
Tracey Enerson Wood
Late 1800s, New York, 335 pages
Constructing a life striding across two worlds, Emily Warren Roebling rises to her callings. Her story, as the wife of the Brooklyn Bridge’s chief engineer, Washington “Wash” Roebling, provides narration into the struggles women faced in the later 1800s. Like the Bridge which spans the East River with foundations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Emily feels the tugs of two shores on multiple levels. Her desire to join the suffrage movement as an active participant like her mother and friends is thwarted when Wash becomes ill, and he asks her to step in to supervise plans and construction. She faces down Tammany Hall politicians while maneuvering past unsupportive Bridge Board members and benefactors while demonstrating her intellect and fortitude. As a mother, her inner conflicts send her to the depths of every woman’s despair: the dilemma of choosing between her child and her career. She admits it’s difficult to perform each job well and yields to the calling of the project, which will serve the greater community. Her personal relationships as well divide her attention, slicing her heart in two between her incapacitated husband and the vibrant showman, P.T. Barnum. Emily’s story inspires women to step out from the shadows and walk boldly across life’s bridges. Wood’s ability to translate complex engineering concepts and construction steps into descriptions understood by the layperson (and a humanities major) is masterful.