“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
Lena, the transcriptionist, sits alone in a room far away from the hum of the newsroom that is the heart of the Record, the big city newspaper for which she works. For years, she has been the ever-present link for reporters calling in stories from around the world. Hooked up to a machine that turns 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. In doing so she also recovers a life—her own.
Amy Rowland has spent more than a decade at the New York Times, where she worked, notably, as a transcriptionist before moving to the Book Review. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Smart Set, and the Utne Reader. She lives in New York City.
XE SANDS is a published audiobook narrator with more than a decade of experience bringing stories to life through narration and performance. From poignant young adult fiction to powerful first-person narrative, Sands’ characterizations are rich and expressive and her narrations evocative and intimate.
“Disturbing and powerful; the skillfully drawn Lena may remind some readers of an existentialist hero.”
“Rowland’s farcical approach is balanced by the novel’s realistic insights into journalistic integrity, the evolution of contemporary newspaper publishing, and, more broadly, the importance of genuine communication.”
“Xe Sands’s ironic tone fits Lena, the questioning transcriptionist who begins to wonder about herself and life. . . . Sands’s narration reflects the loneliness and emptiness that inspire her new direction.”
“Rowland . . . has written a strange, mesmerizing novel about language, isolation, ethics, technology, and the lack of trust between institutions and the people they purportedly serve. . . . A fine debut about the decline of newspapers and the subsequent loss of humanity.”
—Booklist [HC starred review]