The Engineer's Wife: A Novel
by Enerson Wood Tracey

Published: 2020-04-07T00:0
Hardcover : 352 pages
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She built the Brooklyn Bridge, so why don't you know her name?

Emily Roebling built a monument for all time. Then she was lost in its shadow. Discover the fascinating woman who helped design and construct the Brooklyn ...

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She built the Brooklyn Bridge, so why don't you know her name?

Emily Roebling built a monument for all time. Then she was lost in its shadow. Discover the fascinating woman who helped design and construct the Brooklyn Bridge. Perfect for book clubs and fans of Marie Benedict.

Emily refuses to live conventionally?she knows who she is and what she wants, and she's determined to make change. But then her husband asks the unthinkable: give up her dreams to make his possible.

Emily's fight for women's suffrage is put on hold, and her life transformed when her husband Washington Roebling, the Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, is injured on the job. Untrained for the task, but under his guidance, she assumes his role, despite stern resistance and overwhelming obstacles. But as the project takes shape under Emily's direction, she wonders whose legacy she is building?hers, or her husband's. As the monument rises, Emily's marriage, principles, and identity threaten to collapse. When the bridge finally stands finished, will she recognize the woman who built it?

Based on the true story of an American icon, The Engineer's Wife delivers an emotional portrait of a woman transformed by a project of unfathomable scale, which takes her into the bowels of the East River, suffragette riots, the halls of Manhattan's elite, and the heady, freewheeling temptations of P.T. Barnum. The biography of a husband and wife determined to build something that lasts?even at the risk of losing each other.

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Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. Before accepting Wash’s proposal, Emily worries about losing a sense of herself. How would you characterize the changes Emily undergoes during her marriage? Were any of these changes negative?

2. Wash returns from the war a different man, with what today would be diagnosed as PTSD. Discuss the ways you think his time in the war affected him long-term. How did his behavior change? How did he change emotionally?

3. Emily juggles working at the bridge and managing office work while taking care of a young child. Discuss the difficulties of being a working mother. What kinds of challenges does Emily face? How do they differ from challenges modern working mothers face?

4. Building the Brooklyn Bridge was a dangerous process—working in the caisson results in multiple deaths and injuries, and men like O’Brien and Supple die during construction. Do you think sacrifices like these were/are justified, then or now? Do losses undermine or enhance the image of the bridge?

5. Emily is forced to choose between continuing her work with the bridge—thereby fulfilling Wash’s dreams—and being a part of the suffragist movement. Did she make the right choice? Put yourself in her shoes. What would you do? Do you think Wash was right to make her choose in the first place?

6. PT asks Emily if she loves him or the idea of him. What does he mean by this, and which is true?

7. Emily admits to underestimating the women around her. Discuss the effects of this internalized misogyny. How do you think this affects her relationships with other women?

8. As Emily rises to the occasion and does the job of the chief engineer, Wash becomes listless and reclusive. Why do you think this is? Is he threatened by Emily? Discuss how masculinity was perceived at the time.

9. How do both Wash and PT help Emily take risks and become the person she was meant to be?

10. Though they can’t vote, the group of suffragettes finds ways of being influential behind the scenes. Discuss the ways that women have enacted change while avoiding the public eye throughout history.

11. Emily becomes frustrated with the suffragist meetings because of the infighting and the lack of agreement on central issues. Can you think of other movements that have suffered in this way? In what ways were they still successful?

12. Throughout the course of the book, Emily and Wash lose many people they love—siblings, friends, and parents. How do you think
they each cope with grief differently? Which character’s loss did you grieve the most?

13. Emily is in a difficult position: she is married to Wash but also loves PT. How do you feel about Wash’s ultimatum to Emily? What would you do if you were given a similar choice? Whom did you think she should have chosen?

14. Which of Emily’s traits are your favorite? Do you relate to her?

15. Emily has a lifelong habit of breaking societal rules and conventions. How do the important people in her life—her mother, GK, Wash,
and PT—either encourage or try to limit this?

16. After twelve people die from the panic on the bridge, Emily almost loses her will to continue working on the project. Have you ever faced a crossroads like this? What did you do to keep going?

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