The Gates Ajar is an 1868 religious novel by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps - later Elizabeth Phelps Ward - that was immensely popular following its publication. It was the second best-selling religious novel of the 19th century. Sequels Beyond the Gates (1883) and The Gates Between (1887) were also bestsellers, and the three together are referred to as the author's "Spiritualist novels." Mary Cabot of Homer, Massachusetts, has recently been notified of Royal Cabot's death, the brother to whom she is intensely devoted. He was a soldier, "shot dead" in the American Civil War. Their parents are deceased, and Mary is unable to find sympathy and relief from anyone—acquaintances, the church deacon, or pastor. She is losing her religious faith and increasingly despairs. She eventually turns to Winifred Forceythe, her widowed aunt who fortuitously arrives from Kansas with her daughter, Faith. Over the course of their conversations, Winifred offers an inspiring image of heaven and gradually restores her niece's faith. Winifred Forceythe dies, leaving Mary Cabot as guardian of her cousin, Faith. Mary has again found meaning in life and her outlook is joyful.
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