Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Book Thoughts - The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
published January, 2016
336 pages

Synopsis -

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.

My thoughts -

Truth may be stranger than fiction, but in the case of Ruth Wariner, truth is definitely more compelling than fiction. I don't think I read another story in 2015 that so completely grabbed my attention from the beginning, and kept me reading quite so feverishly until the very end. 

Wariner's style is not flashy or showy - she tells her story simply, recounting both daily tasks and startling deprivations clearly and without embellishment. In giving equal weight to both the everyday and the extraordinary, Wariner shows us the importance of both in molding her into the woman she is today. 

This book was not an easy read. The mom in me was horrified over and over as I read the details of her life without electricity, adequate food, and appropriate adult supervision. And yet, even with all the tension and struggle and darkness, Wariner manages to convey the sense that her childhood, difficult as it was, held moments of magic. I've seen comparisons to Jeanette Walls' "The Glass Castle", and I think they are accurate. This is not the type of book that one enjoys reading, but it is certainly a book that it is nearly impossible to put down. I could definitely see this being a fantastic read for a book club as well.

The Sound of Gravel will without a doubt be on my list of best reads of the year. This is a memoir for readers who think they don't like memoirs - this book will keep you up at night, bring tears to your eyes, and make you believe in happy endings again. Highest recommendation!

Finished - 11/23/15
Source - ARC from the publisher - thank you Flatiron Books!
MPAA rating - PG-13 for mild descriptions of abuse and death
My rating - 5/5


bermudaonion said...

I love books like that! I requested it but never got it so I'm adding it to my wish list.

Anna LeBaron said...

I loved your thoughtful review and I love the name of your blog!