BookBrowse Reviews The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

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The Sound of Gravel

A Memoir

by Ruth Wariner

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner X
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2017, 352 pages

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The Sound of Gravel is a well written, stark memoir of growing up in a polygamous community.

What would you do if you were born into poverty and abuse? Would you find a way out? Ruth Wariner's compulsive memoir of growing up in a polygamous family is difficult reading but won high marks among BookBrowse's First Impression readers for its authenticity and a window into a lifestyle most of us know little about.

The book is riveting reading
This beautifully written memoir by a woman born into a polygamist Mormon cult is touching, tragic, and ultimately triumphant. Ruth describes her life beginning at age five, when she lives in abject poverty in Mexico as a member of a small rural town founded as a fundamentalist Mormon colony (Anne C). The inner workings of a polygamist colony would be fascinating without any other details. However, The Sound of Gravel shows us the personal side through the eyes of a young, brave girl. The author's understanding of her mother's motives and beliefs as well as her ability to separate the terribly wrong decisions from the love of her mother is riveting. This is a book I could not put down and stayed up half the night to finish. It really takes you on a dusty, dark journey into a world I never really knew existed (Dorothy G).

Readers were ambivalent about the workings of the welfare system depicted
Ruth and her siblings are all technically American citizens, so even though they live in Mexico, their mother still collects welfare and food stamps from the US (Rebecca L). Ruth and her many siblings, including three born with severe mental retardation, are cared for by a loving but ignorant mother who relies on welfare checks from the U.S. government to supplement the meager resources provided by her abusive husband (Anne C). I understand why the mother "worked the system" to get money to care for her family, but I had a hard time condoning the fact (Jan M).

The book was heart-wrenching for many
Ruth Wariner's calm retelling of her childhood living in a cult was difficult to read. The life of this family caught in the blindness of the mother to the toxic and heartbreaking reality of her family's desperation and danger is written in straightforward prose. I can't say that I "enjoyed" this book, but it was certainly riveting reading (Becky H). I've seen this book called heartwarming. I can understand that for others it might be, but my heart was hurting so much I wasn't able to feel much warmth. Terrible things done to women and children out of misguided faith, ignorance, or stupidity are still terrible things. Knowing the events recounted were all true made it all the more painful (Susan B). As a woman, it was hard for me to read about a life of being subjected to the whims of a husband and a church whose beliefs include multiple wives, as many children as you can bear, and complete obedience to both (Priscilla M).

But Ruth's determination is inspiring for all
After many terrible events and tragedies in her life, Ruth realizes that the life she was born into is evil and based on lies. It is truly wonderful to read how she triumphed over such overwhelming odds. Her determination to take care of what remained of her family is amazing and inspiring. (Anne C). Ms. Wariner is wonderfully brave not only for escaping that horrible life and raising her sisters but for having the courage to write her story (Rebecca G). Ruth tells her story with honesty and love, but the reader's heart breaks for her and her siblings. Her survival and her ability to triumph over adversity make this gritty account shine with hope for the human heart and spirit (Priscilla M).

Recommended for book clubs
Inspired by their mother's consistent love, faith and family ties, Ruth was able to summon the courage, determination and resolve to escape. Her warmth and generous heart allow the reader a glimpse into her life and an opportunity to examine what matters most. The Sound of Gravel will be a well-deserved popular selection for book clubs (Linda H). This book is great. It will be a terrific book for book clubs because there is so much to be analyzed and discussed (Anita S).

This review was originally published in January 2016, and has been updated for the April 2017 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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