2015 Book #118 – The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Warner

818qsZ+z4ELTitle: The Sound of Gravel
Author: Ruth Wariner
Date finished: 11/23/15
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE: I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

RUTH WARINER was the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turn 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 Ruth’s 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 she 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 memoir of one girl’s fight for peace and love. This is an intimate, gripping tale of triumph, courage, and resilience.

My rating: 4.05 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Ruth, a young girl growing up in a polygamist Mormon community in Mexico near the US border. Ruth and her siblings are all technically American citizens, so even though they live in Mexico, their mother (Kathy) still collects welfare and food stamps from the US. This book is about Ruth’s childhood and also about her family. Ruth bares all in this book and readers should be warned, there are descriptions of multiple unfortunate deaths/funerals and also child abuse. After seeing a few episodes of that show Sister Wives on TLC I will admit I have a weird interest in hearing stories of people who have lived or grew up in the polygamist lifestyle. The idea of it is just so foreign to me that I can’t understand how a marriage can be shared between more than two people, the logistics of it and how it can survive the tests of time. So when I saw this book available on BookBrowse I was immediately interested.

While growing up, Ruth and her family move around a lot over the years. At one point her mother leaves her step-father (after an incident with him buying a shower head for wife #1 with Ruth’s mother’s money) and they go to the US to live with Kathy’s parents for awhile. They don’t ever end up in one place for very long, though they are forced to live in El Paso, TX for about 2 years when DCF gets involved after the kids are left alone for almost a week (the oldest child at that time was 12 and the youngest was 1 or 2 if I remember correctly). I thought Ruth did just such a fantastic job describing the different locations where she spent time growing up. The imagery seems so real in the book that the reader feels like they are standing right beside Ruth seeing it with her. The events and timeline in this book are well-laid out and very detailed. I felt like I really got to hear about Ruth’s story and all the details of her childhood growing up.

Overall I really liked this book, it was moving and heart-breaking and a beautiful story about a woman’s traumatic childhood but also about how she overcame that childhood to become the person she is today. At 19 she was taking care of all of her younger siblings, trying to support them while also getting her GED and then going to college. Honestly as heart-breaking as her childhood was, I thought this book was inspirational. To think that someone can live through so much heartbreak and still come out not only surviving but thriving, really it is a feat to be admired. Also at this time of year especially when we are giving thanks for the things in our lives we are most grateful for, this book is a great reminder that I should be grateful for the childhood I had and for the two loving, caring parents that God gave me. I think the story was well written and poignant, and I have so much respect for Ruth not only for what she went through but also for having the courage to share her story with the world.

 

The bottom line: The story line for someone to say they “enjoyed” this book, but it was inspiring and heart-breaking and extremely moving. I would definitely recommend.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

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