About Far Beyond the Gates

Lucy McKay, a high school English teacher from Mississippi, is estranged from her divorced parents. Her father, Pratt McKay, is a professor of history at UNC-Chapel Hill, and her mother a professor of art history at Duke. Pratt, who is ill with multiple sclerosis, invites Lucy to spend her summer vacation with him at his second home, which is in an expensive gated community 250 miles west of Chapel Hill in the Great Smoky Mountains. What Lucy does not know is that her father has been withholding a series of family secrets from her, and he is determined to reveal them over the summer. The visit begins with difficulty for Lucy, who is 35, also divorced, and unhappy. She and her father have trouble talking about his progressing illness, and she still has mixed feelings about the Pulitzer Prize her father won. Within the gated community, Lucy begins to make friends with some older residents, but her life changes when she meets a landscape contractor named Sean Crayton, who is working on properties in the neighborhood. Lucy is desperate for her father’s love, but shortly after she arrives, he reveals a shocking fact about his own years in college. As the days pass and Lucy begins to date Sean, she realizes how unstable her life has been and how desperately she needs the anchor of lasting love to understand what has happened to her. She must unravel the collapse of her own marriage and the failed ambitions of her ex-husband back in Oxford. She must also try to find a point of balance while dealing with her father. Told in a double-journal form by Lucy and her father, FAR BEYOND THE GATES is a story of love’s cost and necessity and the achingly hard job of making love work in a woman’s life.

Amanda Vining photo

Amanda holds a BS in Biology from Georgia College & State University. She began her career as an educator with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. After leaving the DNR, Amanda became a formal educator with Baldwin County School System and Jasper County School System. Amanda began her museum career at the Museum of Arts and Sciences (MAS) in Macon, Georgia, where she served as Curator of Environmental Science
(2011-2020). While at MAS, Amanda developed a love for sharing the world around us with the many students who visited on school field trips. During her time as Curator of Environmental Science, Amanda launched a storytime
program for preschool children.

Since 2020, Amanda has been serving Georgia Writers Museum as a volunteer on the Education Committee. Amanda has brought her love of sharing stories with students by launching Peaches’ Reading Pasture. As Museum Manager, Amanda looks forward to serving the community and helping to inspire those within our community to put words to paper and share their stories.

Amanda was born and raised in nearby Shady Dale, Georgia. Her husband, Rodney, is a native of Eatonton, and they currently reside in Putnam County. They have three children.