Hard Cover Paperback eBook


PAGES: 256

TRIM SIZE: 5.5 x 8.25

ISBN: 978-1-61620-254-5

LIST PRICE: $24.95


On sale date: 01-20-2015

PAGES: 256

TRIM SIZE: 5.5 x 8.25

ISBN: 978-1-61620-450-1

LIST PRICE: $14.95


ISBN: 978-1-61620-396-2

LIST PRICE: $24.95

No one can find it. That’s the first thing. The Recording Room is on the eleventh floor, at the end of a rat-hued hallway that some workers at the newspaper have never seen; they give up on the ancient elevator, which makes only local stops with loud creaks of protest. Like New Yorkers who refuse to venture above Fourteenth Street, there are newspaper workers who refuse to go above the fourth floor for fear of being lost forever if they leave the well-lit newsroom for dark floors unknown.

In this room you’ll find Lena. She works as a transcriptionist for the Record, a behemoth New York City newspaper. There once were many transcriptionists at the Record, but new technology and the ease of communication has put most of them out of work, so now Lena sits alone in a room on the building’s eleventh floor, far away from the hum of the newsroom that is the heart of the paper. Still, it is an important job—vital, really—a vein that connects the organs of the paper, and Lena takes it very seriously.

And then one day she encounters something that shatters the reverie that has become her life—an article in the paper about a woman mauled to death by lions in the city zoo. The woman was blind and remains unidentified, but there is a picture, and Lena recognizes her as someone whom a few days before she had met and talked to briefly while riding home on a midtown bus.

Obsessed with understanding what caused the woman to climb into the lion’s den, Lena begins a campaign for truth that will ultimately destroy the Record’s complacency and shake the venerable institution to its very foundation. In the process she finds a new set of truths that gives her the strength to shed what she describes as her “secondhand life” and to embrace a future filled with promise, maybe even adventure.

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


The Transcriptionist holds many pleasures…[and] can be read through many lenses…Rowland plays with the notions of truth and reliability…It is the responsibility of a journalist to report the truth, but what if – Rowland asks – objective reality is a fiction? and affecting.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Rowland, a former transcriptionist for the New York Times, 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 novel about the decline of newspapers and the subsequent loss of humanity--and yes, these are related.” —Booklist, starred review

“If one had to name an antecedent for the strange, golden sheen that covers Amy Rowland’s debut novel, possibly early John Cheever, with its dreamy imaginings of commuter intrigues, or beautifully cadenced, resonant verbal exchanges, would be closest. Entering the city Rowland creates, with its tightly strung dialogue and soulful, lonely citizens, is a memorable experience.” —The Boston Globe

“The magic of this book… [is that] Rowland demonstrates a gift for making mystery out of a concrete style. Paul Harding has advised writers to write ‘as precisely and as lucidly and as richly’ as they can about mysterious things, instead of writing with mystery and obscurity about clichés; much of The Transcriptionist would likely please him…Rowland shows her dexterity with language—her skill at nailing precisely what is mysterious about something or someone with originality, yet without preciousness…remarkable.” —The Rumpus

“A lively tale, light and enjoyable, about a sensitive, reflective and articulate soul in a fast-paced, often soulless world.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Transcriptionist is suffused with prescient insight into journalism, ethics, and alienation...a thought provoking, original work.” —NY Journal of Books 

 “Funny, sad, perceptive and soulful…Rowland’s writing is spare but evocative…The plot itself – Lena’s obsession with a blind woman who has committed suicide at the Bronx Zoo by throwing herself to the lions – seems almost incidental. It mostly serves as the vessel, a perfectly good one, for what is really going on here: Rowland’s exploration of profound subjects and her consistently engaging writing.” —The Buffalo News

Meet the author

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. The Transcriptionist is her debut novel.

She lives in New York City.

Find her online