Leslie Vryenhoek

Writer ~ Editor ~ Communications Specialist


Ledger of the Open Hand  |  A Novel

A sad, funny tale of friendship and families, of debts owed and lives restored. Ledger of the Open Hand crackles with the clarity and purity of voice one finds in the work of Miriam Toews, yet is wholly its own. A wonderful, wonderful read.        

~Will Ferguson

Ledger of the Open Hand looks at the intimate power of money and emotional debt through the eyes of a young woman trying to own her life. The novel was short-listed for the prestigious Winterset Award and won an Independent Publisher Award silver medal in 2016. It has been nominated for the prestigious Dublin Literary Award. 

About the novel 

Worlds collide when cautious, small-town Meriel-Claire meets her well-heeled college roommate--the self-assured, charismatic Daneen. The two form an improbable friendship. But as Meriel becomes beholden to her shrewd friend, and as Daneen insinuates herself into Meriel's family, suspicions and deficits start to accumulate. 

Meriel eventually finds her calling as a debt counsellor. Straightening out the books for strangers, however, is far easier than reconciling her own complicated relationships. After years of allegiance, family tragedy, and romantic conflict, an astonishing discovery forces Meriel to reconsider the high cost of loyalty to her long-time friend.

With wit and remarkable insight, this debut novel takes a fresh look at our tendency to treat love as a balance sheet. 

In Ledger of the Open Hand, Vryenhoek strips away the meticulous varnish of a cautious life, revealing the tyranny of calculation, the futility of adherence to the rational, and the glory of letting go. Wise, perceptive, and poignant, Ledger of the Open Hand reminds us that desire is immeasurable and love finds its own balance.                                                                       

~ Ania Szado, author of STUDIO SAINT-EX

Michael Crummey named Ledger one of his 2015 Best Books of the Year, saying, "Leslie Vryenhook's subtle, deeply affecting novel, Ledger of the Open Hand. A story about friendship, family and debts of all description: financial, emotional, generational, literary. There are a lot of balls in the air here, and Vryenhook juggles them with a professional ease." (See http://www.writerstrust.com/Home/Recommended-Reading.aspx.)

The "complex idea of credit"-- and credit where it's due 

When The Guardian published Colin Burrow's 'The borrowers' in 2008, I was just beginning to think about writing a novel about relationships complicated by obligation and debts--financial and otherwise--and about the ethics of literary borrowing.

Burrow's piece looked at the "complex idea of credit--part financial, part moral, part social" and concluded that "debt no longer functions in literature as a subject through which to explore how people and societies connect."

After Ledger of the Open Hand was published, I came across this article, stashed in my chaotic files, and read it for what did not seem like the first time. And I realized so many of the things Burrow had written about--from the idea of "A financial language that is also a morally charged language" to George Eliot's Middlemarch--had found their way into my novel.

Colin Burrow is a top-drawer scholar, and he needs no nod from me, but I feel I owe him some acknowledgement (apology?) for what, though not conscious on my part, amounts to literary borrowing. I feel, really, that I owe a debt of gratitude.