Thursday, March 31, 2016
Ruth Wariner was the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turn a blind eye to the practices of her community, Ruth lives in a ramshackle house without indoor plumbing or electricity. At church, preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world and that women can only ascend to Heaven by entering into polygamous marriages and giving birth to as many children as possible. After Ruth’s father—the man who had been the founding prophet of the colony—is brutally murdered by his brother in a bid for church power, her mother remarries, becoming the second wife of another faithful congregant.
In need of government assistance and supplemental income, Ruth and her siblings are carted back and forth between Mexico and the United States, where Ruth’s mother collects welfare and her stepfather works a variety of odd jobs. Ruth comes to love the time she spends in the States, realizing that perhaps the community into which she was born is not the right one for her. As she begins to doubt her family’s beliefs and question her mother’s choices, she struggles to balance her fierce love for her siblings with her determination to forge a better life for herself.
Recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child, The Sound of Gravel is the remarkable memoir of one girl’s fight for peace and love. This is an intimate, gripping tale of triumph, courage, and resilience. -- Flatiron Books
Publishers Weekly said the following about THE SOUND OF GRAVEL by Ruth Wariner in its starred review, "Intense... hard to put down and hard to forget." And I couldn't agree more! I read the entire book in one day! One day! That's positively unheard of for me lately especially given that my kids were home for Spring Break.
For those of you who know me, you probably already know that I love coming-of-age stories. Truth be told, I tend to appreciate fiction ones the best; however, Ruth Wariner's coming-of-age story in THE SOUND OF GRAVEL is incredible! It just darn near broke my heart reading about Ruth's trials as the daughter of a polygamist, and yet, it was a also a beautiful story about strength and perseverance. This book, Ruth's story, is unfathomable to me. It truly is a testament to her courage that she survived her childhood. And to think she actually thrived and found happiness as an adult is just so incredibly special.
Ruth grew up on a farm in a polygamist community in Mexico. Her father was the founding prophet of the community; however, he was killed by his brother in a power play for leadership. When her mother remarried a man who already had one wife, she thought she was marrying a dedicated servant to the congregation. Unfortunately, he wasn't exactly a hard worker... and that's just about the best thing I can say about him.
Ruth's mother takes her children back and forth to the United States and Mexico depending on her financial and marital situation. Ruth loves the time she spends in the US, visiting her grandparents after school each day; however, her mother decides to go back to her husband... over and over again. Naturally, Ruth is confused by her mother's behavior and actually begins to question why she can't just protect her children and stay away from her husband, their dilapidated home, and the polygamist community.
I don't want to give too much away about Ruth's story because I think the shock value of what happens to her and her family is shocking and deserves to be experienced without any spoilers. I can honestly say that every time I didn't think it could get any worth for Ruth, it would. There were times when I wanted to cry and other times when I wanted to throw up. I honestly have no idea how Ruth survived -- both physically and mentally.
Suffice it to say that Ruth eventually does "leave" the compound in a very courageous manner. She ends up taking care of her younger siblings (even though she was only fifteen years old!). I was blown away not only by her dedication and hard work, but also by her ability to be so selfless. Her story is not only amazing but also very inspirational, and I'm so very glad that she decided to share it with others.
I was thrilled to find that Ruth has a section on her website for book clubs. She has listed some questions that readers have asked her. They aren't exactly a reading guide, but believe me when I say that you don't really need one -- you want to talk about this book because there is so much to process! I will warn you that these questions do contain a few spoilers so you might not want to read them prior to finishing the book.
I am still in awe of Ruth's story in THE SOUND OF GRAVEL. Highly recommended to fans of memoirs and coming-of-age stories!
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.