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. Lucy is desperate for her father’s love, but shortly after she arrives, he reveals a shocking fact about his own years in college: he fathered a child born out of wedlock. Within the gated community, Lucy begins to make friends with some of the older residents. Her life changes when she begins to date a landscape contractor named Sean Crayton, who is working in the neighborhood. As the days pass, Lucy realizes how unstable her life has been and how desperately she needs the anchor of lasting love to understand what has happened to her. Told in a double-journal form by Lucy and her father, Far Beyond the Gates is a story of love’s cost and necessity.