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The Quest to Find Peace - an Editorial Review of "Through These Dark Gates"

Book Blurb:


Kate Fletcher can never forget that she is the orphaned child of an adulterous woman—it is the reason she lives at the Magdalene Asylum. Her fate as a stigmatized member of society is sealed, and it is her duty to atone for her mother’s sin by binding herself irrevocably to the Roman Catholic Church as a Sister of Mercy.

Union Sergeant John Dallington will not allow distant regrets to follow him. He is a Protestant, and a past littered with painful secrets can neither threaten his identity in the doctrines of Reformed theology nor shake the confidence inherited through his patriarchal role as father to his two children—until he meets Sister Kate.

Set against the backdrop of the nineteenth-century Irish immigration movement and the American Civil War, this fascinating story follows the lives of Kate and John as they collide amidst the turmoil and treachery of a war-torn Washington, DC, where they both are forced to grapple with questions about their pasts, their choices, and the will of God. The rebellious but furiously honest Collette Clayton, the tobacco-chewing illiterate Private Jack Gunderson, the confirmed bachelor and pragmatic skeptic Dr. Robert Hall, and the fiery Scottish midwife Ellen Kelly are just a few of the unforgettable secondary characters who play into the intriguing subplots of this rich piece of historical fiction.

Exploring themes of innocence and betrayal, slavery and free-will, and the conflict between the search for romantic fulfillment and the quest to find peace with God and oneself, Through These Dark Gates is a compelling novel about a young woman’s journey—and one man’s battle—through the labyrinths of religious skepticism and self-deception toward ultimate self-realization and the knowledge of what it means to be truly free.

Author Bio:

Brooklyn K. Biegel lives in the rugged and inspiring climes of Northern Alberta, Canada. She holds an Associate Diploma in Violin Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music (ARCT) and maintains a thriving violin and speech arts studio at her home east of the Rocky Mountains. She loves bicycling in bare feet, foraging for herbs, and eating dark chocolate. "Through These Dark Gates" is her debut novel.

Please visit Brooklyn online at:

Instagram: atthebrooksbend

YouTube: Four Seasons North–Biegel Family and Biegel Family Music

Four Seasons North:

Editorial Review:

Through These Dark Gates is a poignant novel which is difficult to read at times due to the subject matter the author tackles. The author adeptly describes the impact mental illness can have on the mind, body, and soul.

Kate Fletcher, a nun from the Sisters of Mercy Convent, is riddled with guilt, self-doubt, and self-hatred. Readers follow Kate’s life from childhood, where she is an orphan in the Magdalene Asylum, into adulthood. Kate’s personality is contrasted with that of her friend Collette, who is also an orphan in the asylum. While Kate is reserved in her demeanor, extremely religious, and obsessed with the notion of suffering as the key to salvation, Collette questions all of this. She questions the priests, the nuns and religion itself. While Kate believes that she was put on earth to suffer for her mother’s sins as an adulteress, Collette believes in living life free from constraints. This is evident when Kate thinks to herself, “Of course her life was not meant to be happy, or even easy. And neither was Collette’s. Their lives were meant to be penance – penance for the sins of their mothers.”

Religion is an integral theme intertwined in almost every aspect of the novel. Through These Dark Gates is set in both Ireland and the United States between 1845 and 1864. At this time there was major social upheaval as well as civil war in America. While the war in America was primarily about emancipation and the abolition of slavery, it was also about religion. This is clear though a conversation between John Dallington, an Irish immigrant in the US, and Paul, his future son-in-law. Paul remarks, “To say that white slave owners here and the Pope thousands of miles across the ocean are two sides of the same coin seems somewhat far-fetched to me.” John’s answer to this is as follows, “But not for the skilled tyrant. Both systems are a mere chess game to him, and ignorance is the checkmate scheme by which he intends to outwit his opponent.”

The notion of keeping people ignorant to keep them disempowered also plays a major role in multiple character’s lives. Kate, for instance, feels she can never trust herself or her nature. She is in a constant battle with both the sensations within her body and the questions which plague her mind. Her inner dialogue is tortuous. Her constant circular arguments and circumventing around other people’s opinions can sometimes be frustrating for the reader. The hypocrisy of religion, and on a smaller scale of Kate’s own behavior, is demonstrated by the following quote, “Mechanically, Kate followed the example of the other girls, maintaining an exterior of faultless attention as she listened to the priest’s Latin repetitions, sang with the others the Latin hymns none of them understood, and let the strange text roll off her tongue without making her ears listen to it.” It is as if she is merely putting on a performance but does not even know the reasoning or significance behind it since she does not know the meaning of the words she is singing. Kate is stubborn and refuses to entertain any idea or opinion which differs from her own. When Collette implores her to think for herself with regards to what the priests teach, Kate constantly circles back to the notion that, “… the scripture must only be read with the interpretation of a priest!” She will not accept any other interpretation other than that of the priests.

While her character is aggravating, readers also get a sense for the deep pain that she is in, which is made clear when she thinks to herself, “A cold, vacant loneliness, as though of a tomb, swallowed up her soul.” Her pain and constant desire to do penance trail her throughout the novel.

While Collette and Kate are living in the convent in Ireland, unbeknownst to them, their lives are entangled with that of John Dallington and his family living in America. He has a daughter, Priscilla, and son, Peter. Throughout the novel, we see the guilt that gnaws at John’s soul becomes worse over time. We see fleeting glimpses of it when he is living at home with his family, but it gets worse when he joins the war effort as sergeant, becomes wounded, and addicted to opium. Multiple flashbacks to earlier in John’s life leave readers grappling with his past and trying to understand his secrets. A dark mystery hangs like a miasma above his head regarding his wife’s death. His backstory is riddled with darkness, secrets, his own inner turmoil, and shame regarding past events.

Readers see a great deal of resemblance between John and Kate with regards to their personalities, guilt, addictions, and general mental health struggles. Although their personal battles are different, their reactions to them are similar.

While the descriptions of Kate’s mental health and her internal suffering can be harrowing, it only makes her journey more powerful. Her transformation towards the end is beautifully encapsulated when Kate says to herself, “the little lambs of the flock and the birds of the air and the flowers of the field – they don’t worry about tomorrow, and why should I? I may have nothing at all, but Jesus loves me! He sees me, and he cares! His hand leads me, and holds me, and perfects me, and fills up my heart with his love!”

Overall, this reviewer found the familial mysteries and secrets compelling. Through These Dark Gates is a gripping novel which will grip a reader until the last page. The only drawback to note was the dialogue between Collette and Kate at the beginning of the novel. They were constantly sparring, quarreling, and disagreeing with each other to the point where it made it difficult to believe in the close friendship they supposedly had. It is understandable why the author felt compelled to include the dialogue so that the readers could understand the thought processes and inner states of each of the girls; however, it felt slightly overdone.

Upon completion of this read, a reader is truly grateful to the author for writing this novel and for touching on topics such as mental illness with such grace, compassion, and skill. This truly is a wonderful read.


“Through These Dark Gates” by Brooklyn K. Biegel recieves 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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