The Sound of Gravel is Ruth Wariner's unforgettable and deeply moving story of growing up in a polygamist Mormon doomsday community. Read more...
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The Sound of Gravel is Ruth Wariner's unforgettable and deeply moving story of growing up in a polygamist Mormon doomsday community. The thirty-ninth of her father's forty-one children, Ruth is raised on a farm in the hills of Mexico, where polygamy is practiced without fear of legal persecution. There, Ruth's family lives in a home without indoor plumbing or electricity and attends a church where preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world.
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 father works a variety of odd jobs. Ruth comes to love the time she spends in the States, realizing that perhaps the belief system into which she was born is not the one for her. As she enters her teen years, she becomes a victim of abuse in a community in which opposition toward men is tantamount to arguing with God. Finally, and only after devastating tragedy, Ruth finds an opportunity to escape.
Recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child, The Sound of Gravel is the remarkable true story of a girl forced to define a place for herself within a community of misguided believers. This is a gripping tale of triumph, courage, resilience, and love.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-11-23
- Reviewer: Staff
Wariner is her mothers fourth daughter and her fathers 39th child. So begins this intense memoir of growing up in a sect of polygamous Mormons who are striving to build a utopia in the Mexican desert. The men tend the cows and do odd jobs in the States, while the women tend their children and their pregnancies and make regular trips into El Paso to pick up welfare benefits. Wariners dad is murdered by a rival when the author is three, and her mom replaces him with Lane, whom Wariner comes to abhor. Poverty and jealousy are enormous stressors. Sister-wives fight for resources, and Lane isnt much of a provider. A fight over which wife deserves a new showerhead leads to Lane viciously beating Wariners mother, and she flees with the kids to her parents home in California. The author spends blissful months enjoying chocolate ice cream and hot showers before her mother succumbs to Lanes charms and her own convictions and returns the family to the colony. Squalor and child abuse follow, and the family grinds apathetically along until Lanes mismanagement of life brings a final crisis. By age 15, Wariner has had enough. Fed up with hearing Its Gods will whenever something goes wrong, she rescues herself and then eventually writes this memoir, which condemns using religion to evade moral responsibility. This well-written book is hard to put down and hard to forget. (Jan.)BookPage Reviews
Looking back on a childhood in a fundamentalist colony
Like so many teenage girls, Ruth Wariner and her friends used to spend hours back in the 1980s dreaming and talking of future romances. But despite living in a fundamentalist “plural marriage” colony in Mexico that had broken away from the Mormon church, most of them did not hope for a polygamous future as a “sister wife.” They knew all too well what that meant.
Wariner was her father’s 39th child; her mother, 17 when she married, was the fifth wife of “the prophet.” When Wariner was a baby, her father was killed by assassins sent by his brother in a bloody feud over control of the colony. Her stepfather had four wives, none of whom he could afford to support, and Wariner’s upbringing was horrific. In The Sound of Gravel, Wariner describes her childhood and eventual escape in vivid, heartrending detail.
Her mother, Kathy, loving but in thrall to her ghastly second husband, Lane, had 10 children, three with disabilities. They lived in cramped, primitive conditions in their Mexican settlement, largely supported by the welfare fraud Kathy committed on frequent trips back to the U.S. Lane was abusive and incompetent, ultimately with tragic consequences.
Wariner loved her siblings and friends, but suffered from mistreatment, poverty and a truncated education as her family hid in plain sight from the puzzled but apparently clueless authorities. All her frantic efforts to end her step-father’s abuse were stymied by her mother and their church.
Wariner takes us inside this renegade community as only a survivor could. She writes with particular beauty about her brothers and sisters, innocent children living sad, deprived lives because of their parents’ folly. Her fears for them finally drove 15-year-old Wariner to flee to the U.S., where she built a better life for the family with the intelligence, fortitude and compassion that are evident throughout her impressive memoir.