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The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir Hardcover – January 5, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Wariner, whose deceased father had 42 children, grew up in a polygamous Mormon cult town in Mexico. Even though it was the 1970s, having electricity and plumbing in the house was a struggle, and many of her siblings were developmentally disabled, and Ruth had to care for them. Her family moved often—California, Texas, New Mexico, and back to Mexico when all else failed. Schooling wasn't important, but learning how to make fresh bread and to clean house for her future husband was. In honest, posttherapy fashion, Ruth explains how her mother didn't divorce her stepfather after physical spousal abuse and repeated sexual abuse of his daughters; the girls were supposed to forgive him instead. With no self-pity, Ruth doesn't apologize for her mother's actions—she is grateful for the love of her mother and siblings, though she knows that escaping their stepfather is what ultimately saved them. Teens will root for Ruth and her siblings to survive, cry when the young woman is abused, and fear for the family when things go wrong. VERDICT Fast-paced, sincere, and gut-wrenching, just like Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle; this is a must-purchase memoir for high school libraries.—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL
“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.” ―Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place
"A haunting harrowing testament to survival."
"Wrenching and moving...Wariner is a survivor, but more important, she’s a fantastic writer."
"An addictive chronicle of a polygamist community"
―New York Magazine
“Engrossingly readable from start to finish... an unsentimental yet wholly moving memoir.”
"This well-written book is hard to put down and hard to forget."
―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"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."
"If your book club is looking for a startling memoir, look no further than The Sound of Gravel. Disturbing, powerful, and poignant, Wariner delivers a harrowing story of survival and taking the necessary risk of saving yourself."
“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.”
―Jennifer Lauck, New York Times bestselling author of Blackbird, Still Waters, Show Me The Way, and Found
“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.”
―Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance and After This
“What chance does a girl have in a world where men believe that they (and they alone) are destined to be gods? This is the question Ruth Wariner bravely asks as she brings us into the hardscrabble Mormon polygamous communities of remote northern Mexico. Like a Dorothy Allison of the American West, Wariner shows us the humanity and tenacity in the people she comes from while making no apology for wanting something better for herself. 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.”
―Joanna Brooks, author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith
“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. Powerless as she watches her misguided mother endure a life of servility to her stepfather, Ruth's love for her siblings and determination to break destructive family patterns will fill your heart with hope and triumph. I will not be forgetting this incredible memoir anytime soon.”
―Cea Sunrise Person, author of North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both
“I can’t remember a book that’s had a greater impact on me. Beautifully written, Ruth Wariner’s powerful, raw memoir will touch your heart like nothing you’ve read before. Told with unflinching honesty and a childlike innocence, Wariner takes us places―emotional and physical―few will ever experience, or even fathom. Ultimately this book is a testament to the human spirit, a tale of hope. Its stories of tragedy, abuse, trust, and dreams betrayed are more than offset by Wariner’s pure goodness: her courage, determination, wits, resilience, and ultimately, in her quest to save her beloved siblings, triumph. 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.”
―April Christofferson, author of Trapped
“The Sound of Gravel takes us into the complex relationships of families with intransigent beliefs, religious convictions so dogmatic that harrowing consequences are forced upon their children. Ruth Wariner, this child of an isolated polygamist community, not only survives the oppression, but writes this unaffected tale of compassion and haunting sadness."”
―Sonya Lea, author of Wondering Who You Are: A Memoir
“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.”
―Julia Scheeres, New York Times bestselling author of Jesus Land and A Thousand Lives
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Top customer reviews
I heard about The Sound of Gravel first on Twitter, when I Tweeted the author, and then later that day found out she is my cousin. Seriously. I was given an Advance Reader Copy and was riveted until I read the last page. Reading Ruth's story was so much like reading about my own life growing up in a violent, polygamist cult. My review is so personal because, even though our lives were separated by the heinous crime my father, Ervil LeBaron had committed against her father, Joel, in 1972, we survived the same type of neglect and deprivation, among other horrors.
Ruth makes the shows, documentaries, news reports and other media you see on television about the fundamentalist Mormons come to life, even as you are wishing nobody ever had to experience such realities.
Thank you, Ruth, for your vulnerability, bravery and courage. I applaud you!
This is a photo of Ruth and I when we met for the very first time on December 3, 2015.
I was given an advance reading copy. I tried not to have expectations one way or the other when I started the book. When I finished the book later that same day, what little expectations I had were far, far exceeded. I look forward to the release date in January so I can re-read.
I hope she writes a sequel that picks up where she left off!
The truth is, as part of team who read ARC's I saw other readers talk about how they stayed up late to finish or read it all in one day and I thought it must be hyperbole. Then I got the book myself, started it, and promptly text my boss that I was going to need the next day off so I could finish it (she didn't agree).
Ruth is a baby when her father is murdered and her mom remarries Lane, a man who neglects and abuses his families. Ruth's family lives in an unfinished home that she describes as smelling like mouse droppings, having no indoor bathroom, or electricity. In this home, her mother raises her children - there are eventually 10 children, three with special needs - with minimal support from her husband, welfare that she crosses the border from Mexico to the US to get, and her own willpower.
Her mom is a true believer in the polygamist life and the rules/theology of their particular community. In this, she is both sympathetic and infuriating. I found myself wanting to shake her and "make" her protect her children and stand up for herself.
Ruth's story is rough - there is neglect and abuse, loss and fear. She writes with great love and compassion about her siblings, mom, and grandparents. Even when her mother fails her repeatedly, Ruth acknowledges the failure without bitterness or trying to reason away her mom's action or inaction. She had done a wonderful job with her family's story; this book is well worth your time.