cover image The Engineer’s Wife

The Engineer’s Wife

Tracey Enerson Wood. Sourcebooks, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4926-9813-5

Spanning 1864–1884, Wood’s impeccably researched debut narrates the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge from the viewpoint of a woman central to its creation. Twenty-year-old Emily Warren meets civil engineer Washington “Wash” Roebling in 1864, when he is 27. They marry in 1865 and have their only child in Germany while Wash researches pneumatic caissons, the watertight structures used in bridge foundations. Emily reluctantly sidelines her plans of working for women’s suffrage in favor of studying her husband’s engineering books as they help raise funds for the bridge’s $7 million cost and set up house in Brooklyn. Decompression sickness from trips in and out of the caisson keeps Wash housebound for years, so Emily goes from being his “eyes and ears” at the site to handling public relations and technical problem solving, and taking a leadership role during the project’s many crises. Wash provides little emotional support or companionship, and Emily develops an attraction to charismatic showman P.T. Barnum while still hoping for a sign of affection from her husband. Readers will appreciate the nuanced depiction of Emily’s struggles to overcome male resistance and balance her own needs with her partner’s. Wood’s satisfying historical feels true to its era yet powerfully relevant to women’s lives today. (Apr.)