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Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir

Ruth's father had 42 children -- she was number 39. She was a rough and tumble girl, having three siblings before her and almost a half dozen more to come. Her father was killed when she was a baby by his brother in a power struggle for the church, and her mother remarried soon after. This man, however, was not the man he purported to be. Raising her children in destitution and squalor, Ruth's mom gave birth to a series of babies while choosing to remain ignorant to the sexual abuse her husband was perpetuating on his own step children. While Ruth is still young, tragedy strikes the family, and she must make a decision that will change all of their lives. 

This memoir was super intriguing and incredibly interesting. I have been on a kick lately reading about poverty, and this memoir surprisingly fit into it. Of course I have lots of thoughts on issues such as depending on the government when your religion believes it is the devil, but if I'm just keeping it to the story, I would say it's definitely worth the read. Truth is certainly stranger than fiction, and Ruth's truth is mind-blowing if you have never experienced poverty at the level she has. 

The biggest question, I think, is at what point do you need to walk away from a chosen religion that encourages an unhealthy lifestyle for your children? I specifically mean living in squalor to the point of disease and the inability to ensure the safety of your babies. It's easy to argue in the story that Ruth's religion was the crux of her families problems. Now, that isn't to say that every religion causes problems, but theirs specifically doesn't just advocate for this lifestyle but embodies it. The lifestyle being one of poverty, barely enough to eat, definitely not enough nutrition for small growing bodies, and ultimately sexual abuse of minors. While the sexual abuse isn't necessarily inherent in the religion, the willingness of the community members to stand for such treatment of children in their midst -- including the mothers of the abused children -- is nothing short of shameful and unacceptable.

The hardest part of this book is that the only reason Ruth escaped her daily horror was because her mom died. That is incredibly unfortunate because it took the death of her rock and the only real functioning adult in her world to bring order and a childhood to her life. I appreciate what it too for her to write this story, and I'm happy she did. 

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