The Sound of Gravel opens with a startling phrase: “I am my mother’s fourth child and my father’s thirty-ninth.”
When Ruth Wariner was just a baby, her father — the leader of a polygamist Mormon colony in Mexico — was murdered by his own brother during a church power struggle. In a forthright, captivating voice, she describes a childhood and adolescence filled with religious dogma, instability, neglect, and abuse. By turns suspenseful and thoughtful, Wariner’s story is both a candid glimpse into life within an insular polygamist community and a testament to the strength it takes to escape.
Note: trigger warning for sexual abuse.
“My grandfather died before I was born, but I entered childhood in the community that was his legacy. I took my first steps on the dirt roads that ran through the small farming community, tiny rocks and dry dirt getting stuck between my toes and piercing the soft soles of my feet. The trees my grandfather planted offered the shade that first cooled and protected my pale, freckled skin from the harsh desert sunlight. I ran through the peach orchards with my siblings, drank fresh milk from the cows on our dairy farm, and ate vegetables from the gardens my grandfather had first seen in the vision God sent him.”
Ruth Wariner is a high school teacher and the author of The Sound of Gravel. Born in Colonia LeBaron, Mexico and raised in a polygamist Mormon colony, she now lives in Portland, Oregon.
Length: 336 pages
Main Setting: Colonia LeBaron, Mexico
Secondary Settings: El Paso, Texas and Strathmore, California, United States
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