The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland

Book Review:

Deceptively simple yet highly descriptive and nuanced, Amy Rowland has managed to evoke the feel of a New York city newsroom, and the conflicted emotions that a person delegated to the ‘background’ may have when a story is left to dangle without proper attention.

Rowland gives us Lena, a long-term position with a newspaper in a position that is becoming obsolete with technological advances; she has a first peek at the news that will be in the next edition: stories from the obscure to the life-altering. 

Deeply introspective Lena’s life is isolated at work and after– in the recording room with dictation and a pigeon her only distractions.  She isn’t a person particularly comfortable with her own words and voice, preferring to use quotes from others that she feels fit the situation.  Lena is lonely, pondering her life, her journey and her path: her job is quickly becoming obsolete with the decline of the newspaper industry and the technological and ‘story sharing’ that has become a part of the day to day business of a newspaper.

When a story about a woman who was mauled to death by lions in the zoo crosses her desk, she realizes that she had a conversation with that same woman, two strangers passing time on a city bus, but that stuck with her for the depth and content.  For Lena felt, in those moments of conversation that there was a connection,  while still not using her own words, she felt a connection and sense that she could be that woman.

Here the contrast between a woman who has reached the end of her life without many regrets and Lena, still searching for her ultimate purpose and just where she fits in.  As she explores this woman’s life and discovers the common elements, her need becomes a near obsession, and she learns to broaden her own communication, finding her own voice and desires under layers long buried or forgotten.

It’s difficult to put this story into perspective that is easily understood, but most simply it is a coming-of-age story of a woman who felt she was long past the time of making important life decisions, and the freedom she achieves in realizing the world is greater than the box she has consigned herself to for years.   A read that is beautifully detailed with lush descriptions and scenes that put the reader in the midst of the action, this story will resonate with readers in their second, third or even nth discovery of their life’s path and journey as they seek to find and redefine themselves.



The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland

Title: The Transcriptionist
Author: Amy Rowland
Genre: Literary Fiction
Published by: Algonquin Books
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Pages: 256
Audio Length: 5 Hours: 2 minutes
Rated: four-stars
Get Your Copy: Amazon AllRomance iTunes Downpour IndieBound Book Depository Audible
See this Title on Goodreads

A stunning novel told with the same gravity as Nicole Krauss s History of Love.

This powerful debut follows a woman who sets out to challenge the absurdity of the world around her. Lena, the transcriptionist, sits alone in a room far away from the hum of the newsroom that is the heart of the Record, the New York City newspaper for which she works. For years, she has been the ever-present link for reporters calling in stories from around the world. Turning spoken words to print, Lena is the vein that connects the organs of the paper. She is loyal, she is unquestioning, yet technology is dictating that her days there are numbered. When she reads a shocking piece in the paper about a Jane Doe mauled to death by a lion, she recognizes the woman in the picture. They had met on a bus just a few days before.

Obsessed with understanding what caused the woman to deliberately climb into the lion's den, Lena begins a campaign for truth that will destroy the Record's complacency and shake the venerable institution to its very foundation.

An exquisite novel that asks probing questions about journalism and ethics, about the decline of the newspaper and the failure of language, it is also the story of a woman's effort to establish her place in an increasingly alien and alienating world.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About Amy Rowland

Amy Rowland's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn and is a staff editor at The New York Times Book Review. The Transcriptionist is her first novel, and she does not know why she hasn't written others by now.

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