The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir

Ruth Wariner. Flatiron, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-07769-1
Wariner is her mother’s fourth daughter and her father’s 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. Wariner’s 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 isn’t much of a provider. A fight over which wife deserves a new showerhead leads to Lane viciously beating Wariner’s 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 Lane’s charms and her own convictions and returns the family to the colony. Squalor and child abuse follow, and the family grinds apathetically along until Lane’s mismanagement of life brings a final crisis. By age 15, Wariner has had enough. Fed up with hearing “It’s God’s 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.)
Reviewed on: 11/23/2015
Release date: 01/05/2016
Ebook - 978-1-250-07771-4
Hardcover - 587 pages - 978-1-4104-8854-1
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-1-250-07770-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-4272-6814-3
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4272-6815-0
Paperback - 978-1-4328-3775-4
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