The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland

Lena is a young woman in a dead-end job. Where at one time the newspaper she works for had two dozen women in their transcription room, there is now only Lena. It is her job to transcribe the words of various reporters around the world and send the article down to the correct editorial desk on the fourth floor of the newspaper’s building. In the vast emptiness of the eleventh floor, separated from the bustle of the newsroom on the fourth floor, Lena conducts her business with the minimum amount of personal contact. She has been at her job for so long that she finds her thoughts being replaced by the words of the reporters as they move through her head, down her arms, through her fingers, and into the articles she types for review.


But that changes one day when she reads in the newspaper about a blind woman who was mauled to her death by some lions at the zoo. Lena is amazed to find that she had met the woman only days ago in a chance encounter on the bus. But the article is merely a short blurb about the woman – calling her a Jane Doe. Lena is upset that no one in that newsroom thought even for a moment about learning the woman’s name or trying to find a family member to claim the body.


In an effort to find the victim’s family, Lena goes about finding herself. This is a story about self-enlightenment and about doing the right thing.



The author’s descriptive passages are rich and detailed. But the premise that this lonely woman, Lena, would take it upon herself to find the dead woman’s family somehow didn’t sit true for me. I found the path to the book’s conclusion a bit contrived but fitting nevertheless. A solid debut novel.