Listen, I'm going to be honest, this book review comes with a story that is going to sound just plain crazy. In many ways, it kinda is crazy. I've tried to write the review for this blog post without the story, and I just can't. Too much of the review needs this background. So, this will be long, but hang in there with me, it is a beautiful, powerful, fascinating story.
It starts in March when I applied to be a part of Jen Hatmaker's book launch team. When author's publish a book, they need for the book to get a lot of coverage, especially in social media. So they put together teams of people to read parts of the book - sometimes even the entire book - and then promote it. Jen Hatmaker is brilliant and hilarious, so I knew I wanted to be on her team. Sadly, 5,000 other people had the same thought and the publisher told her she could only have 500. What no one could have predicted is that those of us who got "rejected" are a group of rather determined (stubborn) force to be reckoned with. Within hours of getting the rejection letter, we begin tweeting to each other and Jen responded. Before 24 hours were over, we had formed a group based off of Anna Lebaron's genius hashtag, #the4500. So much has come out of that group that I could not even begin to cover in this post. One thing that we discovered was that even as the "B" team we were really good at launching a book.
Jen's book launched officially, but our group has formed such a bond that we continue to support, pray for, and care about each other. We have created several different groups that started with members of the original #the4500, health groups, writing groups, and an entire group dedicated to launching books, #the4500launches. As we were organizing our group, our leader, Anna, again reached out on Twitter. This time to a first time author named Ruth Wariner. Here is where the story really gets crazy. Anna's father was one of two leaders of a violent, polygamist,cult. Violent as in, robbing, beating, and killing people. Anna is in the process of writing her own book about her escape from her father. The first person that Anna's father had killed was his own brother, the other leader, and Ruth's father. Naturally, there was a huge disconnect between the two families after the murder of one brother. Anna and Ruth had never met, nor spoken, before this Twitter contact.
Anna reached out to Ruth because Ruth's book is a memoir as well, of her childhood after losing her father. Incredibly, Ruth responded. Anna offered #the4500launches as a way to promote Ruth's book, The Sound of Gravel. Ruth accepted and two cousins, torn apart by horrible, tragic violence came together and presented us with this book. Only God could possibly have made that happen. Only God.
This book, The Sound of Gravel, is unlike any other book I have ever read. And I read a lot of books. From the first sentence, to the last sentence I was completely captivated. Somehow it was simultaneously heartbreaking and inspirational. With grace and beauty, Ruth recounts a childhood that most of us can't even begin to imagine. There were times while I was reading that I had to stop, so difficult were the circumstances she presents. Yet, I could not leave the book unread for long because those stories were equally as compelling and powerful. Though these stories are sometimes horrific, Ruth tells them with grace, and mercy, and love. Incredibly, I never felt pity for her, instead there was just courage and acceptance and genuine joy laced throughout the book. Ruth is a masterful story teller, and her style connects the reader to each member of her family. I marvel at her indomitable spirit, her incredible ability to speak from a place of love, forgiveness and hope, and her astonishing bravery. This book speaks to the spirit of those who refuse to give in or give up. It speaks to fighting for those you love. It speaks to finding strength and using that strength to not just survive, but flourish.
The Sound of Gravel can be ordered at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book sellers. Go to www.RuthWariner.com. for details on ordering this book.
*I was given an advanced reader copy to read for an honest review of this book.