As we let out a collective post-holiday sigh, many of us are looking for a good book to curl up with on the sofa. We need a story to carry us away from the pile of decorations waiting to be taken to the attic and propel us into the new year with courage and great purpose. I have just what you need. But it’s not an inspirational self-help book or a wholesome romance novel. Instead, I want to suggest you muster a healthy dose of empathy and settle in next to the fire with a memoir.
Tuesday, January 5th Flatiron Books releases The Sound Of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner. I recently read the story of the author’s childhood in the heart of a polygamist cult. Wariner was her mother’s fourth child and her father’s 39th, as she states in the opening of her book. Her father and church prophet Joel LaBaron was murdered when she was a baby and her mother remarried a member of their community. Wariner and her many siblings grew up in harrowing conditions of abuse and neglect. The story is tragic, yet heroic.
Here are five reasons to make The Sound Of Gravel the next book on your “to read” list:
1. It will jolt you from any temptation to blame victims for their plight.
Most of us have a tendency to wonder what victims do to evoke the injustice they experience. We do this because of a psychological desire to believe that life is fair. If bad things happen to good people, it must mean that we are all vulnerable. Bad things could happen to us, too. We’d rather believe “bad” is preventable, so we search for reasons why victims are victims. Reading this memoir brought me out of my own temptation to blame the victims in this story by helping me see how difficult it was for this family to break from the beliefs and traditions of their church: physically, spiritually and psychologically. The story made me want to fight for justice rather than search for excuses.
2. It will help you realize that there really are people under the control of others, so it is important to own the decisions you have the opportunity to make.
There are times I feel trapped by the expectations I perceive in others. I want to make others happy so they will be happy with me. Reading the perspective of Ruth Wariner as a child in The Sound Of Gravel helps me remember that I am a grown up who is not bound by the expectations of others, so I need to own every decision I make.
3. It will help you see your kids as people.
I am glad I had the opportunity to hear little Ruthie’s perspective as she attempts to make sense of her complicated relationship with her mother and find her voice as a young woman. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks thinking a lot more about how my children experience me. I ask questions like, “am I acting like an adult who has choices or like a victim of my circumstances?” “Does my child see how much I respect him as an individual or does he think his purpose is to keep me happy?” I am grateful for increased awareness.
4. It will either change or confirm the way you talk about your beliefs with others.
I am facinated that at 17 Wariner’s mother desires to become the fifth wife to the 42 year old prophet of the polygamist Mormon sect. Her emotional drive to remain faithful to her understanding of God is not unlike what I see in other religions. The adults, specifically the men in the book seem to use religious beliefs as a weapon to threaten false guilt and shame to keep others under their control. Does this ever happen in our churches and homes? God help us.
5. It will inspire you.
I don’t want to spoil the book for you, so I will simply say that I put the book down with a desire to demonstrate my own loyalty to those I love.
There are many other reasons to seek out Ruth Wariner’s memoir, but whatever the reason you pick it up, The Sound of Gravel will send a chill down your spine and set a fire in your belly.
Find The Sound Of Gravel website here.