The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
Published by Amy Einhorn Books, an imprint of Penguin
Rose Baker works as a typist at a New York City precinct in the year 1923. She is responsible for sitting in on police interrogations and typing up confessions exactly as she hears them. When the precinct hires another typist, named Odalie, Rose is drawn to her immediately. New York City is quickly changing, and Rose feels lost in this glamorous, fast-paced, exciting city, so Odalie is the perfect person to help guide her through all the new things life has to offer for Rose. Even though Rose has always been a “good girl”, Odalie’s world is enticing to her and she soon finds herself joining Odalie in speakeasies every night, prohibition be damned. But soon their friendship becomes slightly obsessive, and their world quickly spins out of control, resulting in shocking consequences for both of them.
I did not know what to make of this novel when I first picked it up. It starts off innocently enough – the reader is introduced to Rose, who explain that she is a good girl and a good person, a rule follower who simply does her job every day and comes home to the boarding house in which she lives every night. But once Odalie is in the picture, things take a turn for the exciting, the sinister, the strange. When Rose and Odalie first become friends, it seems like Odalie will simply introduce Rose to a life a little outside of her comfort zone – a life that includes dancing and drinking and the kind of fun Rose has never experienced before. But it quickly becomes apparent to the reader that things here are not what they seem, and something sinister is lingering just below the surface of their friendship.
This novel was incredibly compelling, mostly because of how much the reader is kept in the dark about what’s really going on with these two women. It is clear that something awful happens at the end, as throughout the novel Rose is telling the story from some kind of institution, as she is seeing a therapist and has been told to tell her story in the correct order, whatever that means, and not to mix things up, and to tell the truth. But what’s confusing is what the HECK is she being locked up for, and can the reader even trust her to tell an accurate account of what happened? She’s one of the most unreliable narrators I’ve met in a long time, and I was captivated by her and by this story.
I have to say, though, that my enjoyment of The Other Typist overall was seriously impaired by the ending. It’s not that the ending was ambiguous or open-ended, because it was both of those things, but what bothered me is that I still don’t understand what the hell even happened! There’s even a thread on Goodreads titled “Let’s Discuss the Ending” wherein it appears that nobody really gets it. So I have to say that this bothered me a lot. I spent a lot of time with these characters, and upon finishing the book I still have no idea about what’s real and what’s made up – or what even happened in that last shocking scene.
For those of you who’ve read the book – what did you think of the ending? And if anyone has some insight please email me! I’m lost.
Other than the ending, I did really like the book. So if you’re into smart writing, intriguing characters, and an incredibly ambiguous ending, read this one!