“Lena works as a transcriptionist for The Record, a major newspaper based in New York City. Her job is to transcribe reporters' stories and interviews in preparation for publication. Her life is a quiet one, full of other people's voices. The reader is drawn into Lena's isolated life where she's haunted by the brutal stories she records every day, as well as memories of her childhood. This is a thoughtful, ultimately hopeful novel about the degree of tenderness we bring to the millions of fine details about other people's lives we encounter every day”
— Julie Wernersbach, Book People, Austin, TX
"Haunting and provocative . . . Rowland's writing is compelling and masterful." --Delia Ephron, author of The Lion Is In
Once, there were many transcriptionists at the Record, a behemoth New York City newspaper, but new technology has put most of them out of work. So now Lena, the last transcriptionist, sits alone in a room--a human conduit, silently turning reporters' recorded stories into print--until the day she encounters a story so shocking that it shatters the reverie that has become her life.
This exquisite novel, written by an author who spent more than a decade as a transcriptionist at the New York Times, 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.
"The Transcriptionist is suffused with prescient insight into journalism, ethics, and alienation . . . A thought provoking, original work." --New York Journal of Books
"Rowland seems that rare thing, the naturally gifted novelist . . . She] deftly maps a very specific kind of urban loneliness, the inner ache of the intelligent, damaged soul who prefers the company of ideas and words to that of people . . . That urge--to make words holy--is at the heart of this novel's strange, sad beauty." --The Washington Post
"The Transcriptionist holds many pleasures . . . and] can be read through many lenses . . . Rowland plays with the notions of truth and reliability . . . Sharp and affecting." --The New York Times Book Review
"A strange, mesmerizing novel . . . about the decline of newspapers and the subsequent loss of humanity--and yes, these are related." --Booklist, starred review
"Ambitious and fascinating . . . Disturbing and powerful." --Library Journal
"Entering the city Rowland creates, with its tightly strung dialogue and soulful, lonely citizens, is a memorable experience." --The Boston Globe
"Unforgettable. Written with such delight, compassion, and humanity it's newsworthy."--Alex Gilvarry, author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant