DiscoverComing of Age

The Bridge


Loved it! 😍

A beautifully constructed cautionary tale based on a true story of ambition and redemption.

Based on the Quebec Bridge Disaster of 1907, The Bridge began as a screenplay. From its dedication—“Big Tech: Actions have consequences”—and opening quote from Margaret Meade—“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world”—the author emphasizes the seriousness of the subject matter.

In the present, the protagonists are Ben and Esther, senior-year engineering students at a Canadian university. Ben is a short-cut taking, system-gaming partier; Esther is serious and astute. When their professor pairs them for an Ethics project, sparks fly as they unpack the events of the Disaster.

Using their project as a literary device, Palmer goes back in time to the precipitating events and tragic culmination, out of which, with the support of Kipling, came the advent of the Iron Ring ceremony (which the author knows firsthand). In a private ritual, graduating engineers are given a ring of iron—rough-cut so it snags—which they wear on their left pinkie as a reminder of the seriousness of their work and its potential consequences.

Our hero in the past is Alec, a laborer and gifted engineer. A newlywed and soon to be father, Alec is motivated to make the most of the bridge project. Reminiscent of Follett’s Pillars of the Earth (and Titanic, which continues to loom like a spectre) we see how the engineers, site managers, labor supervisors, and laborers (“skywalkers”) constellate around the project, representing different levels of meaning and engagement. For some, it’s a paycheck. For others, a stepping-stone to promotion. For others, like New York–based designer Cardinal, it’s about prestige.

Cardinal’s set in opposition to the local consulting engineer, McDougall, the archetype of the Warner who sees the flaws in the design, as do the supervisors, as the project proceeds, but to whom Cardinal won’t listen.

As Palmer deftly navigates parallel timelines, moving each to its inevitable climax, there’s growth, realization, betrayal, loss of life, and several secrets revealed.

As a historical novelist and teaching-artist, I’m conscious of the dangers of looking at the morality of the past through modern lenses; Palmer’s approach is flawless. The whole point is that Ben’s slacker mindset is not commensurate with the role of the engineer. Considering the Silver Bridge Disaster of 1967 and the Minneapolis bridge collapse forty years later, The Bridge is a novel with gravitas, told by a storyteller with the necessary knowledge and skill.  

Reviewed by

I am a screenwriter, playwright, Escape Room and immersive experience designer, and story analyst. I have 8 published novels, and 6 nonfiction books, most available on Amazon (Joey Madia). I review books for several publicists and review sites. 383 published reviews.

About the author

Andrew Palmer grew up in Oakville, Ontario. He graduated from computer engineering and joined the Directors Guild of Canada to work in TV & Film production. His interests are in science fiction and politics, with some of his favourite storytellers including Robert Heinlein and Issac Asimov. view profile

Published on November 26, 2021

Published by Synapz Productions

60000 words

Genre: Coming of Age

Reviewed by