Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Sound of Gravel

The Sound of Gravel
by Ruth Wariner

Genre: Memoir

Synopsis:  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 a 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.
from the book jacket

Review:  This is going to be a hard review to write without giving anything away that is not included in the synopsis.  Yes, this is a book about a girl who grew up in poverty and squalor in a polygamous community but yet this is also a book about another topic that is not mentioned in the synopsis and that topic plays a large role in shaping Ruth, her relationships, her family, and her ultimate decision to leave LeBaron.  Ruth tells about her childhood in a somewhat matter of fact way without asking the reader to pity her.  I spent a lot of the book wondering why any woman would choose to live in polygamy and be brainwashed by the doctrine but as an outsider it will be something that I will never understand.  I very much disliked Ruth's mother, Kathy, for the choices she made and how much she overlooked what was happening with her children and failed to defend them.  Tragedies happened that could have been prevented (at least in my mind) which made me angrier at Kathy.  Ruth, however, was able to love her mother despite everything and learn from her.  I was amazed at Ruth's strength, commitment to her family, and ability to persevere.  She amazingly escaped from her life in the LeBaron community and raised her younger siblings even though she was only 15 years old herself.  This story is captivating, hard to read at times, emotional, and ends on a positive note.

Rating: 4 stars