I'm honored today to be hosting the blog tour for the latest novel by Ellen Gable, Where Angels Pass. It is available at a discount until Christmas!
Sexual abuse perpetrated by priests has been a scourge on the Catholic Church, causing irreparable harm to victims and leading many Catholics to stop practicing the faith. Ellen Gable has more cause than most to have left the faith. Her father was sexually abused by a priest as a teenager. This abuse contributed to his alcoholism and debilitating mental illness. Gable's whole family suffered as a result of this priest's sins. Yet Gable hasn't left the Church. Instead, she practices her faith and uses her writing to help teach the truth about the beauty and teachings of the Church.
In Where Angels Pass, Gable pens a semi-autobiographical novel about herself and her father. One encounters Hank Gallagher as a young man who falls prey to the affable Fr. Tim who takes him under his wing, shows him preferential treatment, and ultimately betrays him. It is a startling portrait of abusive grooming at work.
A secondary narrative shows Evie Gallagher growing up in the wake of her father's early demise, discovering the horror of what happened to her father, and seeking justice for her father and peace for herself against the backdrop of the larger sexual abuse crisis in the Church.
Where Angels Pass is a powerful novel which is extremely well-written. It presents a poignant portrait of the ramifications of abuse, some of which can last for generations. It is painful to read at times. I can only imagine it was both painful and cathartic for Gable to write, one more step in her ongoing healing process. It is a challenge to say who should read this book. No doubt it would be quite triggering for victims of clerical sexual abuse and their families to read, although it might also help provide a way to move forward in faith. For those not impacted by the sexual abuse scandal, it can provide a first-hand portrayal of the harm that has been caused. It may inspire readers to do all they can to insure such atrocities are never allowed to happen again.
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Interview with Ellen Gable
Where Angels Pass is quite different from your most recent books. Why?
Where Angels Pass has actually been on my “To Write” shelf for at least 15 years. Any time I tried to sit down and write it, I couldn’t. This was a very difficult topic to write about because of what happened to my father.
When my father was a freshman in a Catholic high school in Philly, he was sexually assaulted by one of his teachers. He kept the secret his whole life and the only person he ever told was my mother. My father had a very troubled life after that and eventually wound up having a nervous breakdown the same day my youngest brother was born. Then he had to cope with the stigma of mental illness, eventually becoming an alcoholic and dying tragically when he was only in his 40s.
This summer, when I sat down to write, I started writing and didn’t stop until the book was complete (three weeks). I have never written a book in only three weeks, but every day, I just wrote and couldn’t stop. I’d stay up late to write another thousand words. I’d get up early to write. The only time I stopped writing was when I cried (which was frequent throughout the writing process) and I had to step away.
How much of this book is based on true events?
Most of the book is based loosely on true events. I changed names, of course, amalgamated characters and situations. The time period is different as well. Evie (based on me) is seven years younger than me. The story is told from the perspectives of both Evie (my character) and Hank (my father’s character).
One thing that is not true about the book is that I never met my father’s abuser. He was already dead when I found out about him. The book takes place between seven and ten years after the events in real life because I wanted the abuser to still be alive. In many respects, that chapter was very healing for me to write.
What do you hope the reader will take away from your story?
It’s my hope that the reader will be able to learn that just because a person has suffered clerical abuse (in this case, my father) does not mean his life had any less value than any other person. Did he make mistakes because of his woundedness? Of course, he did, because we’re all born with original sin and with free will.
And despite all these things that happened to him, he was really an incredible father and, I believe, made the world a better place (again, despite his nervous breakdown and alcoholism).
Most importantly, I hope the reader can understand that the Catholic Church is not an evil institution, and we should not leave the Church because of the sins of some of her members. One thing I didn’t realize until recently was how widespread the clerical abuse problem has been for many years. And while it saddened me that my father was abused, it breaks my heart that so many others suffered like my father.
Why did it take 15 years for you to be able to write this book?
I didn’t want to imagine what my father went through during his abuse and afterward. And while I wrote this book, I had to step away because I’d be crying, especially during the abuse chapters, the aftermath, his nervous breakdown, and his battle with alcoholism.
My father wasn’t the sum total of his faults. Instead, he was a unique image of God, who tried his darnedest to be a good husband, son, and father. However, his woundedness was like a snake that slithered all throughout everything he did, good or bad.
Why do you feel your extended family are also victims of clerical abuse?
Having a father who was abused by a priest directly contributed to my father having a mental breakdown and suffering from alcoholism. I believe that had my father never been abused, he probably would not have had a nervous breakdown and he may never have become an alcoholic. As the daughter of an alcoholic, I remember times when as a young teen, I was the parent figure and had to take him to bed or help him put clothes on. In some respects, having an alcoholic father makes a child grow up too quickly.
Please visit other stops on the blog tour:
December 3 Plot Line and Sinker
December 4 Jim Sano
December 6 Mary Jo Thayer
December 7 Carolyn Astfalk My Scribbler’s Heart Blog
December 8 Elena Maria Vidal
December 9 Victoria Ryan
December 10 Michael Seagriff
December 12 Amanda Lauer
December 13 Theresa Linden
December 14 Jeanie Egolf
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