Ruth Wariner is the guest. Her new memoir, The Sound of Gravel, is available now from Flatiron Books. It is the official January selection of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.
This is one of the most devastating reading experiences I've had in recent memory. Ruth Wariner's childhood in LeBaron, a fundamentalist Mormon colony in Mexico, is almost beyond belief. That she was able to survive seems miraculous, and the fact that she has now transmuted the horrors of her youth into a book is, I feel, an act of real heroism. When she showed up at my door, I was a little rattled. I had just finished the book and was still processing it. Ruth and her husband pulled up in front of the house and got out of their rental car and...the word that comes to mind is "sunny." They are sunny people. I feel like Ruth has the right to be ultra-goth and cynical—after what she's been through, it seems like she should be allowed to chain-smoke everywhere she goes, including in hospitals and on airplanes—but that wasn't the sense that I got when I met her—not at all. She sat down in the garage and we talked for an hour about all of it—Mormonism, polygamy, child abuse, the prison of belief, the deep pain of loss, the love of family, time, healing, catharsis, you name it. It was a good hour. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did.
In today's monologue, I recall how I raced to read Ruth's memoir and wound up listening to the audiobook version at double-speed, and what it did to my head. I also pay a little homage to Glenn Frey of The Eagles, yet another Baby Boomer rock icon, gone, it seems, too soon.