Title: The Sound of Gravel
Author: Ruth Wariner
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: 2016
Format: Hardcover
Length: 336 pages


The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner is a memoir that truly stays with you long after you’ve finished reading the last page. Wariner grew up in Colonia LeBaron, a polygamist community in Mexico. Her grandfather founded the colony and her father, considered to be a Mormon prophet, helped with the church by recruiting members. Wariner’s father died when she was only three months old. Her mom remarried a man named Lane so he could support her children in LeBaron. Her mother was a devout Mormon and wanted all of her children to have polygamous marriages. Wariner’s stepfather was sexually and verbally abusive. He was not able to provide support for all of the children he fathered so the family grew up in poverty. Their house at LeBaron lacked modern conveniences such as running water and electricity. Wariner would shake mouse droppings off her pajamas before getting dressed. Her mother continued having children with Lane. Wariner helped with her younger siblings and when her mother passed away tragically, Wariner escaped LeBaron at the age of 15 with the assistance of another wife of Lane’s and her oldest brother. She took her three young sisters with her and raised them on her own.

Ruth Wariner’s mom and her siblings
Ruth Wariner with her sisters on her wedding day

The memoir is powerful and shows the strength Wariner had to leave the community she grew up in. She writes honestly and openly about her past. One of the most devastating parts of the memoir to me is when her mother escapes to her hometown in California and then decides to return to him when he shows up one day at the house. The kids become well adjusted to a good school across the street from their maternal grandparents, her daughter is getting assistance for medical issues and she is able to make it on her own living in a rental down the street from her parents. Wariner’s mom decides that the best decision is to stay with Lane and continue raising her kids at LeBaron.

Favorite Quote: I knew that my life would never be happy if all it amounted to was having several children by a shared husband. I couldn’t understand how love or adoration could be possible in that kind of arrangement, and I desperately wanted those. But I also knew that it wasn’t enough to want them. You had to know how to get them. Mom couldn’t teach me that because she didn’t know herself. She couldn’t show me how to be happy, only how to barely survive. ( The Sound of Gravel, p. 258)

five out of five bookworms

For more information about Colonia LeBaron and the history of polygamy, click here to visit Ruth Wariner’s site.

Click here to listen to Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love of Moxie podcast with guests Ruth Wariner and her cousin, Anna LeBaron, author of The Polygamist’s Daughter.

Ruth Wariner and her husband

About the author…

From the author’s website:
RUTH WARINER is an internationally renowned speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir THE SOUND OF GRAVEL. At the age of fifteen, Ruth escaped Colonia LeBaron, the polygamist Mormon colony where she grew up, and moved to California. She raised her three youngest sisters in California and Oregon. After earning her GED, she put herself through college and graduate school, eventually becoming a high school Spanish teacher. She remains close to her siblings and is happily married. The Sound of Gravel is her first book. www.ruthwariner.com


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