Alyson Hagy's Scribe is a lean, hard wolf of a thing. There's something feral and panting about it. Vicious. It is sour and cruel and vivid, with a long memory and blood in its teeth. It gives nothing away ... Scribe's story is clear, simple and plain. In Hagy's future, most everything has been lost. Literacy is no exception. But her main character is a professional writer of letters...a man named Hendricks,...comes to her house one day to ask her to write him a letter, then to take the letter to a certain crossroads and read it aloud. And that's it. The entire book is the wish and the fulfillment, nothing more. Some people would call Scribe a short book. A fast read. But it isn't really either of those things. Really, it's a hungry book — one where every sentence seems to imply a second that it never offers; where every page and every paragraph offers the ghost of a feast, but never lets you eat.
In nonliterate societies, minstrels occupy a place of power, both as guards of the people’s history and remodelers of the myths they tell. The protagonist of Scribe is a refreshing version of this ancient archetype, largely because she is a she ... As befits this allegory, the prose is sensuous. This is a novel written in dreamily violent language ... The violence is not solely stylistic; entering Hagy’s brutalized America, the reader must be prepared for a society where life has no value. Hagy goes to great lengths to decontextualize her narrative and de-linearize time, both to underscore the perennial aspects of human nature and to create a mythlike atmosphere for her patchwork of retold tales and war lore. Unfortunately, these methods can amplify reader disorientation. In better moments, the blurred landscape and timescape allow the language to become as lulling as an incantation. Scribe, which begins with the baying of hounds and ends with silence, reminds us on every page that humans remain the storytelling animal, and that therein might lie our salvation. But the book’s momentum derives from the relationship between the protagonist and [a mysterious man named] Hendricks ... In this brave new world, a woman with a pen may prove mightier than a man with a sword.
Though setting, identity and motivations are shrouded in Blue Ridge mist, Hagy’s language is intense and crisp. What she allows us to see is striking ... Hagy does a splendid job of intertwining the strange threads in her novel, and readers with a taste for magical doings will not be disappointed. Scribe is ultimately an odd but very engaging mixture of the creepy and the redemptive, with a resolution that dispels the murkiness in a clever and startling way.
This opening of the [protagonist's] heart is especially powerful given the novel’s all-too-relevant themes of migration, authoritarianism, and the way our history shapes who we are today ... Scribe speaks to many of our contemporary issues, including the history of the land we in the United States inhabit. It provides a unique perspective on the times we live in and perhaps even offers some foresight into the future. Following the protagonist’s humble and selfless change of heart, Hagy suggests what our relationship to those around us should look like.
Reading Scribe, Alyson Hagy’s slim, dystopian novel, it’s difficult not to hear echoes of Cormac McCarthy’s eerie, early Appalachian writing. Although Hagy has clearly created a work of imagination, she writes with the infused, dark, Scotch-Irish sensibility of someone raised in southwestern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, as she was, steeped in her farm family’s lore ... At times, the narrative can be both sketchy and challenging, but well worth the effort.
... a fascinating and quick read yet at just under 160 pages this novel packs a lot of story. Hagy’s writing is beautiful, stylistically as the whole book comes off as poetic as well as having that practicality that lets the reader feel like they are really in the landscape of the novel ... The writing is dream-like at times even going well into fantasy- apparitions appear, the dead speak, dreams and reality intertwine. All of these occurrences are straight out of the folkloric influences that Hagy relies on. Throughout the novel the power of words are ever present. Language, history, and stories (whether oral, written, or even mythical) shape reality ... artful, eerie, dark, stunning, haunting. Plotted quickly and written expertly Scribe is the next book you’ll be thrilled to have picked up.
Hagy's...newest novel, Scribe, is a testament to her skill as a writer ... There's a word that folks in MFA programs use to talk about writing, about how it sounds and looks and feels, about the art of it. That word is craft. Craft is the bread and butter of the literary artist of the Program Era, and Scribe is pure craft ... The language is crisp, alive, familiar, has grammatical errors, but speaks with an abiding wisdom we Americans have come to believe inhabits the straightforwardness of the uneducated. It borders on exploitive, caricatural, but is beautiful.
Set after a civil war and deadly fevers decimate the country, Hagy’s new novel is a slim and affecting powerhouse ... Steeped in folklore, the mystical and unexplainable lace themselves throughout the novel ... Timely and timeless; a deft novel about the consequences and resilience of storytelling.
Hagy probes the weight of responsibility and the desperation of survival in a deteriorated society in this evocative, opaque tale ... The vagueness of setting, supernatural elements, and only partially revealed histories amp up the eeriness of this disquieting novel.