Updated: Mar 30, 2020
There is something incredibly powerful and brave for someone to share their story by writing a book. I have always connected to memoirs because I have a high amount of respect for anyone who is willing to be that authentic and vulnerable. I heard ofThe Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner through the book grapevine and instantly knew it would become part of my ever growing list of favorite memoirs. The Sound of Gravel is the story of Ruth's childhood, growing up in with her siblings and mother in a polygamist cult. Her story is raw, emotional, and tragic. It is unbelievable to know it is a true story and that Ruth is left standing after everything she endured. This book is truly a testament to her character.
Ruth grew up in a meager household in rural Mexico. They did not have a proper bathroom or electricity and they learned to live off the few resources they had available. Ruth's mother was originally married to Ruth's father, who was high up in the polygamist Morman community, until he was murdered by his brother. Ruth's mother eventually remarried and continued to have more children with her second husband, Lane. Ruth was Lane's second wife and always felt like she could not compete with his first wife. Lane worked odd end jobs and Ruth's mother traveled to the United States atleast once a month to collect government assistance, which they lived off of. According the US laws, her marriage was not legal, so to them she was a single mother in need of assistance.
Ruth and her siblings grew up in a strict religious setting where the women were raised with expectations to marry young and be one of many wives, abiding by God's laws in order to secure their place in heaven. The boys were raised to anticipate having multiple wives and having as many children as God let them have, even if they could not afford to raise them, which was often the case. Ruth learned independence at a young age and most of her childhood was spent taking care of her younger siblings because her mother was simply unable to keep up by herself. She faced sexual abuse from her step father, object poverty, and was shuffled around between the community in Mexico and her grandparents house in California.
Ruth suffers horrendous treatment from her step father and the polygamist community. Her portions of time with her grandparents in the US gives her a taste of how life should be like. While she cares for her younger siblings, she tries to figure out a way to get out. Ruth is eventually faced with tragic situations that provide her with a way to escape. She finally takes the opportunity and starts her life over.
This book was incredible. I cannot believe that this is a true story and that Ruth is left standing, strong enough to write these events. It was hard to read at times, but also inspiring to know what she went through and how she came out the other side. Ruth's love for her siblings is palpable and that love is the backbone of this book. I cried, laughed, and grieved alongside Ruth as I read her story. My only slightly negative thought was that the book ended when she escaped. Though I liked hearing her childhood stories, I would have also loved to hear how her life went when she was caring for her siblings and turning her life around. That inspirational piece of the memoir was missing and I felt that a few chapters at the end could have shored that part up. That being said, I still thought it was a remarkable memoir.
I gave The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner ★★★★.5 and recommend it to people who enjoyed memoirs such as The Glass Castle, Educated, and Little Sister. It is the story of a young woman who lived in object conditions, but was able to overcome all of her setbacks and create a beautiful life. It is incredibly powerful.