While I was visiting my parents out in Texas, my mom recommended that I read The Sound of Gravel as she and her book club had just finished it and she found it fascinating. The book itself is a memoir written by Ruth Wariner about her childhood, and eventual escape, from the polygamist Mormon colony Colonia Lebaron.
I’m not going to lie – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I don’t know much about the polygamist Mormon lifestyle, and everything I do know I’ve learned from TLC’s Sister Wives. I dove into the book with limited expectations.
Well four hours, 300 something pages, and a really bad sunburn later, I closed the completed book and was absolutely stunned by Ruth’s story.
Wariner’s memoir details her life growing up as the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children in a polygamist colony in a Mexican town just south of the El Paso, TX border. The members of the colony believe that God will punish those who disobey, and that the only way women will enter the gates of Heaven is by entering into a polygamous marriage and giving birth to as many children as possible.
In order to survive, Wariner and her siblings make the regular trek across the border into the United States for they’re mother to collect her welfare check and to assist her step-father with his variety of odd jobs.
As she grows older, Wariner comes to realize that the life and beliefs that her mother subscribes too may not be the life she wants to lead.
The story is absolutely gut-wrenching, but Wariner recounts her memories of family bonds, loss of loved ones, fear of the future, neglect and a shifting mindset about what it meant to live in a polygamist colony, with incredible grace and well thought out word choice.
In all honesty, some of it was hard to read, as it is a world that is completely foreign to me, and I did have to skim-read some of the pages. That being said, it was a phenomenal window into a little known world and will leave any reader spell bound.
Have you read The Sound of Gravel? Let me know your thoughts!