Sound of Gravel
by Wariner, Ruth

Part I The Promised Land
Part II Babylon
Part III Alone
Part IV Breaking

An account of the author's coming-of-age in a polygamist Mormon cult describes her childhood on a farm in rural Mexico as one of her father's more than forty welfare-dependent children and her escape in the aftermath of a devastating tragedy.

RUTH WARINER lives in Portland, Oregon. After Wariner left Colonia LeBaron, the polygamist Mormon colony where she grew up, she moved to California, where she raised her three youngest sisters. 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.

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. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

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 ol der. 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 u nsentimental yet wholly moving memoir. Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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