the Sound of Gravel: a story of polygamy
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Published by Flatiron Books on January 5th 2016
Source: the library
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A riveting, deeply-affecting true story of one girl's coming-of-age in a polygamist 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 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 step-father 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 forge a better life for herself.
Recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child, The Sound of Gravel is the remarkable true story of a girl fighting for peace and love. This is an intimate, gripping tale of triumph, courage, and resilience.
I read three books in a row about polygamy (The Polygamist Daughter happens to be the flip side of Ruth’s story, which I’ll be reviewing soon), and this was the first of the three. I’ve read a lot of books about polygamy, and this one ranks way up there in terms of being the best. It’s written from the point of view of a child – which I normally hate, because no one can ever write like a child when one is an adult – but is actually well done in this book. There’s not a lot of emotional stuff in this book, not a lot of explaining away the facts that happen in so, so many other memoirs. Ruth’s life growing up is utter, utter crap, but she someone manages to convey that without the “poor me” syndrome. It’s refreshing, really.
And Ruth goes through horrible, horrible things – if you only read one book on polygamy, this is a good one because so much awful stuff happens – you’ll lie awake wondering how she had the strength to get through it all.