The Sound of Gravel...A review.

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I'm going to go ahead and say that this may not have been the best choice for a poolside day of reading. Don't get me wrong—this book was well-written, thought-provoking, and more than interesting. But it was sad. Very, very sad. 

I believe in the value of sad stories and I think they build empathy and humanity in the world. I just maybe don't believe in them while sipping on a pina colada. I tell you all this because I can't imagine that the reading experience did not effect my opinion of the book.

This book isn't for someone who wants to close it feeling refreshed. It is for someone who is "familiar with the melancholy" as my husband would say. It's a memoir, Ruth Wariner's memoir, about growing up in a polygamist family in Mexico (and various parts of the US).

I think there should be a word for this kind of poverty—poverty inflicted because of religious beliefs. As we all know, children are expensive and polygamists have lots of children. I can't imagine the anger I would feel if my dad's other family got nicer things (electricity, running water) or more food than we did, simply because he married another woman first.

I also think there is a dramatic relational poverty in stories like this. One person can only give so much. And when you have multiple wives and multiple families, it's hard to believe each individual relationship is a complete one. 

This book is ... hard. There were times I needed to close it, to give myself and my heart a few minutes to breathe. Nonetheless, I would still recommend it. People experience hard things, and I think it's our job to find empathy for experiences far outside our own.

Who is this book for?

People who grew up in religious minority groups: Is that a thing? A phrase? Religious minority groups? I'm not sure, but we'll go with it. And yes, I think this is for that group of people. It's inspiring to read Ruth's journey of overcoming.
Polygamists: Yes. Not that they would. Doesn't exactly paint the lifestyle in the prettiest picture.
People on vacation: No. Not the most uplifting, beach-worthy read. It will make you a little sad on your vacation.

What does this book say?

That Maria thought she could choose her own future seemed like a radical notion to me.

I hadn't seen that sort of happy expression on her face in years, and it only added to my melancholy. Would I end up like her, I wondered, shackled to a man who appreciated me so little that the only thing that made me feel loved was attention from my adult son?

I cried too, but only much later, when I realized how little she had asked of the world, and how even that had been too much for the world to give.


ReadsRachel GreimanComment