Summary and book reviews of The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

The Sound of Gravel

A Memoir

by Ruth Wariner

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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Book Summary

A riveting, deeply-affecting true story of one girl's coming-of-age in a polygamist doomsday cult.

Ruth Wariner was the thirty-ninth of her father's forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turned a blind eye to the polygamous 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 her 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 Ruth 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 find a better life for herself.

1

I am my mother's fourth child and my father's thirty-ninth. I grew up in Colonia LeBaron, a small town in the Mexican countryside 200 miles south of El Paso, Texas. The colony, as we called it, was founded by my father's father, Alma Dayer LeBaron, after God sent him a vision. In that vision, my grandfather was walking in the desert when he heard a voice that foretold of a place that would one day be populated with trees dripping with fruit, wonderful schools, beautiful churches, bountiful farms, and happy, faithful people. My grandfather had grown up in a fundamentalist Mormon family, and he always believed in the polygamist teachings of Joseph Smith. When the vision came to him, he knew he needed to move to Mexico and establish a community that would be a beacon of hope, an example of what comes from living righteously.

My grandfather and grandmother LeBaron established the colony in 1944, and other polygamist families soon followed. Before long, the dry Mexican ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Booklist

Haunting. Rather than delving into the particulars of the community's beliefs, Wariner reveals them as they arise. This gives great depth to the portrayal of her situation. With power and insight, Wariner's tale shows a road to escape from the most confining circumstances.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This well-written book is hard to put down and hard to forget.

Kirkus Reviews

Engrossingly readable from start to finish... an unsentimental yet wholly moving memoir.

Author Blurb Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place
The Sound of Gravel is a portrait of real courage in a sea of pretenders. Ruth Wariner, you have my respect as a writer and a survivor.

Author Blurb Jennifer Lauck, New York Times bestselling author of Blackbird, Still Waters, Show Me The Way, and Found
The Sound of Gravel will haunt you, and Ruth Wariner will inspire with her direct, unsentimental prose. I lost sleep reading this memoir and felt nothing but awe and respect. That Ruth survived to tell this story simply boggles my mind.

Author Blurb Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance and After This
The Sound of Gravel is a riveting portrayal of what it's really like to grow up in a polygamist community. Ruth Wariner's simple writing, her enduring love for her mother and siblings, and her dramatic escape make this an engrossing, deeply moving memoir.

Author Blurb Joanna Brooks, author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith
Ruth Wariner has given us an unforgettable portrait of an enduring and deeply misunderstood segment of American society and a deeply moving account of her own determined pathway out.

Author Blurb Cea Sunrise Person, author of North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both
A beautifully narrated story that manages to be both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Told with generosity and without self-pity, I turned each page with admiration of Ruth's resilience and strength of spirit.

Author Blurb April Christofferson, author of Trapped
Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven is a very good book. Ruth Wariner's The Sound of Gravel is a great book, one that will haunt and inspire you for the rest of your life. In her exquisite and powerful telling, Wariner takes us to the darkest recesses of extreme polygamist Mormonism - on a painfully real and personal level - and brings us back to the light.

Author Blurb Sonya Lea, author of Wondering Who You Are: A Memoir
Ruth Wariner, this child of an isolated polygamist community, not only survives the oppression, but writes this unaffected tale of compassion and haunting sadness.

Author Blurb Julia Scheeres, New York Times bestselling author of Jesus Land and A Thousand Lives
The Sound of Gravel is a powerful indictment against religious fundamentalism and the way zealots control and harm generations of women and children. This is an important, and ultimately triumphant, story.

Reader Reviews

Tracey S. (Largo, FL)

Great read!
I read this book in about 2 days. I could not put it down. Ruth's story was unbelievable. She endured so much as a little girl and didn't have much time to really be a kid. The story of being in a polygamist family was intriguing to me. And their ...   Read More

Anita S. (Boynton Beach, FL)

Amazing
This book is about a woman who grew up in a religious sect whose members practiced polygamy. It is a memoir and the author starts her story when she was 5 years old. And what a story it is! This book reads like a novel and a could hardly put it ...   Read More

Diane D. (Blairstown, NJ)

Mind-boggling
I've always been interested in how the polygamous Mormons lived their lives, so I felt as if I "had" to read this book. I never thought how it would affect me...to the point where I couldn't read it at night, because I would stay awake, thinking ...   Read More

Linda H. (Glasgow, KY)

Surviving a Polygamist Upbring
Ruth Wariner's memoir The Sound of Gravel is an honest, straight-forward, mesmerizing and eye-opening account of her precarious childhood upbringing in a polygamous household in Colonia LeBaron on the outskirts of Chihuahua, Mexico written without ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Misery Lit

The Sound of Gravel, a personal account of the author's traumatic childhood, is part of a surprisingly popular genre commonly called, somewhat derisively we might add, the misery memoir.

In a 2006 Guardian article, a publishing industry official pointed out that "readers of these books would previously have looked to fiction for their emotional engagement but now they respond to the extra 'integrity' of fact." Since then, publishers have struggled with nonfiction accounts that are not entirely so (James Frey's A Million Little Pieces comes readily to mind). Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone ran into similar troubles as well, with reporters faulting the accuracy of some of the claims made.

Over the last few years, the genre has seen ...

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