The Transcriptionist; Amy Rowland
2014 - Algonquin
Set somewhere around 2004, Lena Respass is the sole transcriptionist at “The Record”, the newspaper she works for in NYC. Gone are the days of the headset and dictaphone machines where many sat and dutifully transcribed the latest news stories for the newspaper business. Still she sits upstairs in a tiny room on the eleventh floor day after day performing her duties. When her work is done she heads home to the rooming house where she lives. Years earlier Lena gave up the pursuit of a Masters degree in Literature for her job at The Record.
Lena is a woman who seems to be okay with doing the same thing, day after day after day, until one day she reads a news story about a blind woman who broke into the lions' den at the Bronx zoo and was mauled to death -- an apparent suicide. She recalls a brief encounter with the woman just before the incident, and she becomes obsessed with finding out more about the woman and why she did what she did.
I found Lena to be an interesting character study. She lives an isolated life -- both on and off the job. She thinks deeply and seems somewhat obsessed with words, putting a literary spin on even the mundane. For example, in her boarding house room, the pipes of her sink are exposed and dripping, soaking the carpeting day after day. As Lena lies in bed, she sees the exposed pipes and thinks it looks awful, but that a "skirt" covering the pipes would be worst, thinking. "hardware shouldn't wear costumes." An observant woman, her quirky views of the ordinary, give a brief comic relief at times, from what could have been a very sad story. I liked the way the incident with the woman caused Lena to examine her own life.
I thought this was a very good debut novel, the author was able to paint a vivid picture of her character, the surroundings and all people she interacted with. I will be anxious to read further books by this promising new author.
(eGalley - NetGalley)