As her mother’s fourth child and her father’s thirty-ninth, Ruth Wariner is only a few months old when her father is brutally murdered. Ruth’s mother becomes the second wife of a selfish, vile man in the polygamist Mexican colony in which the family lives and eventually gives birth to several more children. The Sound of Gravel is Ruth’s story of survival but it is also a story of the triumph of the human spirit. While still a child herself, the steadfast love Ruth has for her siblings combined with her remarkable capacity for forgiveness propel her out of the life that victimizes her.
I was lucky enough to be on the launch team for Ruth’s book, which meant that I was able to read an advance reader copy before the release date of January 5, 2016. The Sound of Gravel is undoubtedly the best memoir I have read since Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle. Ruth’s memories are described so vividly that I found myself completely immersed in her story and the heartbreaking challenges she faces while growing up in the cult.
We all have a story. What defines each one of us is the way we tell our stories. What struck me most about Ruth’s book is that she does not focus on the darkness of her life; no photos of her evil stepfather or the horrific living conditions the family endured. Instead, what you find in this book is the light; the focus is on those who matter most to Ruth, her mother and siblings and how they shape the person she becomes. The sweet innocence Ruth sees in some of her beloved family members (such as her brother Luke) permeate the story itself and ultimately, at her most helpless, desperate time, Ruth proves that she is capable of defending it.
There is no better way to sum up the courage and resilience described in The Sound of Gravel than this verse, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner is available for purchase now. Check out ruthwariner.com for more information. You can also read this interview with Ruth by her cousin, Anna Lebaron, whose father was responsible for the murder of Ruth’s father. The two women have connected and together are moving past the horror of their shared family history.