Leslie Vryenhoek’s debut novel starts with her protagonist, Meriel-Claire, being driven (in more ways than one) by her mother to university. Meriel-Claire cannot wait to be in a new place, to become a new person. She’s ready to assume fresh expressions, enticing roles, perhaps something modeled by her roommate Daneen, an exotic transplant. Certainly nothing related to her parents or older brother.
Ledger of the Open Hand is a coming of age tale that doesn’t stop at graduation but continues through young and mid-adulthood. Love, friendship, family all must be negotiated. Merial-Claire begins to see the pluses, minuses and balances of life, just as clear (and rewarding and punishing) as the numbers she, an accountant and debt counselor, constructs and advises over each day.
The genesis of the title, a biblical reference, is cited on the overleaf (‘God loves a cheerful giver’) and quoted late in the book: the question is resonant throughout the text–how do you calculate the worth and cost of human relationships?
Vryenhoek has a poet’s taste for precision and unusual, apt imagery (‘It was the kind of old-fashioned furniture that demands good posture’). With this book she also stakes possession to the instincts of a storyteller.