The sound of gravel A memoir

Ruth Wariner

Book - 2016

The true story of one girl's coming-of-age in a polygamist family. Ruth Wariner was the thirty-ninth of her father's forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turn 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 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 nee...d of government assistance and supplemental income, Ruth and her siblings are carted back and forth between Mexico and the United States, where Ruth's mother collects welfare and her stepfather 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 she 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. Recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child, this is the memoir of one girl's fight for peace and love.--Adapted from book jacket.

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2nd Floor 289.3092/Wariner Checked In
2nd Floor 289.3092/Wariner Checked In
New York : Flatiron Books 2016.
Main Author
Ruth Wariner (-)
First edition
Physical Description
342 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
  • The promised land
  • Babylon
  • Alone
  • Breaking.
Review by Booklist Review

Wariner was her father's thirty-ninth child (of 42). Growing up in a polygamous Mormon colony in Mexico, she never thought that life would hold anything more for her than motherhood through marriage with a man who would be supporting several families. As she relates in detail in this haunting memoir, however, her childhood revealed a dark side to the relationships in her own family. For Wariner, life in a polygamous family meant hardship and abuse, which she describes through the heartbreaking perspective of the girl she was. Through experiences such as staying with her grandparents in the States, she slowly learns to expect more from life. Rather than delving into the particulars of the community's beliefs, Wariner reveals them as they arise during otherwise everyday routines, much as a child slowly learns the workings of the world around her. This gives great depth to the portrayal of her situation and to the characterizations of her mother and stepfather. With power and insight, Wariner's tale shows a road to escape from the most confining circumstances.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2015 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Wariner's first book, relating her childhood bouncing between El Paso, TX, and Colonia LeBaron, a polygamist Mormon colony in northern Mexico, depicts the events that led her to flee from the colony at age 15, when she and her older brother smuggled their younger siblings across the U.S. border to escape her neglectful and sexually abusive stepfather. The author's complicated relationship with her late mother; her observations about the inner workings of a polygamist community; and her questions about family, faith, and what it means to be on the right life path take readers on an intense coming-of-age journey. After settling in the United States, Wariner raised three of her younger siblings on her own. Told from the perspective of Wariner as a teen, this account is at turns poignant and tragic; a raw, engrossing chronicle of inner strength and survival. VERDICT This book will appeal to memoir lovers as well as readers interested in polygamist culture or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.-Crystal Goldman, Univ. of -California, San Diego Lib. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Wariner, whose deceased father had 42 children, grew up in a polygamous Mormon cult town in Mexico. Even though it was the 1970s, having electricity and plumbing in the house was a struggle, and many of her siblings were developmentally disabled, and Ruth had to care for them. Her family moved often-California, Texas, New Mexico, and back to Mexico when all else failed. Schooling wasn't important, but learning how to make fresh bread and to clean house for her future husband was. In honest, posttherapy fashion, Ruth explains how her mother didn't divorce her stepfather after physical spousal abuse and repeated sexual abuse of his daughters; the girls were supposed to forgive him instead. With no self-pity, Ruth doesn't apologize for her mother's actions-she is grateful for the love of her mother and siblings, though she knows that escaping their stepfather is what ultimately saved them. Teens will root for Ruth and her siblings to survive, cry when the young woman is abused, and fear for the family when things go wrong. VERDICT Fast-paced, sincere, and gut-wrenching, just like Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle; this is a must-purchase memoir for high school libraries.-Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A high school Spanish teacher's memoir about a peripatetic, often turbulent childhood and adolescence spent among fundamentalist Mormons. Wariner, her "mother's fourth child and her father's thirty-ninth," grew up in the small fundamentalist Mormon colony of LeBaron in northern Mexico. Chaos dominated her early life: one of her eldest siblings was prone to fits of extreme aggression, and when the author was 3 months old, her father was murdered. By the time she was 3, her mother, Kathy, had become the second wife of another colonist named Lane. But rather than bring stability to the family, the marriage only seemed to exacerbate the chaos. Lane and her mother argued and fought, sometimes violently. And while Kathy tried to sever the relationship by leaving LeBaron, she always found herself going back to her husband and bearing more children, whom she supported with government welfare checks. Wariner's own relationship to her parents grew increasingly strained as she became older. In elementary school, Lane began to sexually abuse her. The author told Kathy about the abuse, but it continued into her teenage years. Desperate for "attention and adoration" from Lane, Kathy told her daughter she should "be more Christlike" and forgive her stepfather for his trespasses so as to keep the family together. After a freak accident that killed both Kathy and one of her younger siblings, Wariner discovered that Lane was also abusing her younger, developmentally delayed brother, Luke. With the help of another brother, who had gone to California to make a life for himself, 16-year-old Wariner took her remaining siblings to the United States, where she raised her three youngest sisters on her own. Engrossingly readable from start to finish, the book not only offers a riveting portrayal of life in a polygamist community. It also celebrates the powerful bond between siblings determined to not only survive their circumstances, but also thrive in spite of them. An unsentimental yet wholly moving memoir. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.