In her debut collection of stories, Laura Hendrix Ezell assembles a harmonious chorus of resilient female voices—many speaking from the margins of their own lives, all contemplating their complicated relationships with the men who influence their trajectories. Set against rural backdrops whose emptiness and isolation hint at constrictive forces rather than wide open spaces, Ezell’s stories capture their characters not only at their most vulnerable and desperate, but also at essential moments of self-discovery, of purposeful recognition of the extenuating circumstances that have shaped their respective fates.
Throughout A Record of Our Debts, Ezell weaves together diverse, distinctive tales with remarkably fluid yet muscular prose that belies the desolate imagery contained within. These are striking, memorable odes to overcoming, though not always in ways that leave the characters whole. These are people who somehow manage to find themselves in the aftermath of loss, who uncover their own modest strengths while surrounded by so much weakness. This is a long, winding road of adolescents forced into prostitution by their own fathers, healers still haunted by the men they could not save, and widows who convert abandoned churches into makeshift diners in the hopes of luring back their husbands’ spirits. In short, this is a powerful exploration of the human spirit at both its best and its worst.
Ezell’s figures extend well off the page, lingering in one’s memory long after the final line. For that, readers owe Ezell a debt of gratitude.