‘Wasn’t an easy story to write’: Arnprior author’s new novel tackles difficult topic of priest sex abuse

Arnprior Chronicle [Renfrew, Ontario, Canada]

January 5, 2022

By Sherry Haaima

Local author Ellen Gable Hrkach has been writing fiction for over 20 years. Most of her novels are historical romance or suspense. This past summer, however, Hrkach decided to write her most challenging novel: a story based on her late father’s life.

“It wasn’t an easy story to write. My father was sexually abused by a priest when he was a freshman in high school. He suffered a nervous breakdown when I was two years old and struggled with alcoholism and depression. He died unexpectedly when I was a teenager. He wasn’t a perfect person, but he was a loving and dedicated father,” Hrkach said.

“Where Angels Pass,” Hrkach’s 12th book, is the fictionalized story about Hrkach’s father, who kept the abuse he experienced secret for most of his life. He only told Hrkach’s mother.

“When I found out about the abuse after his death, everything in his life made so much sense, but I was angry. Through prayer, fasting and spiritual direction, I was finally able to forgive my father’s abuser,” she said.

Reviews for the book have been overwhelmingly positive. Michael Seagriff, author and former attorney, writes: “Ellen Gable has done a great service to our church, the victims of this dreaded abuse, and particularly to their families whose suffering has gone virtually unnoticed. Masterful job mixing fact with fiction.”

Hrkach shares that she became a writer because of her father, who wrote essays and stories to help him deal with depression and the challenges of his life. Author Jim Sano says the book is “a love story of a daughter for her father … that will surely touch people in a profound way.”

Award-winning author Mary Jo Thayer “highly” recommends the book, saying: “It just might be one of the most important novels of our time.”

The tragedy of unreported or ignored clergy abuse has led to a loss of faith for some Catholics and Christians, said the author. The betrayal by many priests has angered and saddened the faithful.

“I didn’t have the courage to write this story until recently when it became evident that so many people were leaving the church and/or questioning their faith because of the abuse scandal. I understand why some are leaving the church. People feel betrayed. However, my father never left his faith despite the abuse,” said Hrkach.

Theresa Linden, author, writes that the book “provides insights into one of the darkest issues of our time,” and bestselling novelist Michelle Buckman says it “addresses the darkness of sexual abuse and the resulting lifelong wounds with delicate finesse.”

Originally from the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, Hrkach is now a dual citizen.

The author began writing religious fiction as a hobby 20 years ago when her five sons were small children.

“The experts recommend that you write what you know, so my experience as a Catholic daughter, sister and mother underscores everything I write,” she said.

Six of Hrkach’s books have been translated into various languages. Five of her novels are available as audiobooks on Audible. Since 2009, the author’s books have been collectively downloaded 760,000 times on Kindle. She has published 12 original works, ghostwritten four others, and has contributed to numerous other books.

“Where Angels Pass” costs $20 for the print edition and $5 for Kindle. It’s available online via Amazon. Signed copies of the book are available by contacting the author: fullquiverpublishing@gmail.com.

Sherry Haaima is an editor with the Renfrew Mercury and Arnprior Chronicle-Guide. She can be reached at sherry.haaima@metroland.com . Follow her on Twitter and Facebook