Closing The Gate

Closing The Gate
ISBN Paperback   978-0-9848968-0-6
ISBN Hardcover 978-0-9848968-1-3
Many Thanks to all of my terrific advance readers who provided reviews included here!  You humble me!   Deb Simpson 

Book Review by Teresa Belardes

“Closing the Gate” by Deb Simpson
For most of us, the headlines regarding the Mass Suicide of the thirty-six “Heaven’s Gate” cult members in Rancho Santa Fe, Ca. in 1997 was a sad curiosity. For Author Deb Simpson, it became up close and personal when her now adult, baby brother Jimmy, became collateral damage, his dead body discovered five weeks later in Atlanta Georgia. This, his second attempt to follow “those who went on ahead’, at last for him, successful.

This is a page turner of a story that manages to show clearly, the many facets of the characters who shaped the author’s life and that of her brother. It is a testament to their grandmother with whom she spent a few early years, that she was able to come away with enough tools to enable her to make different choices than the narrow possibilities that would inevitably be all that were available to her brother, after a childhood of loneliness and neglect. It paints a vivid case picture for the argument gauging  ‘Nature versus Nurture’

This author has managed, through her grief, to tell the poignant and tragic story of a childhood bereft of the safety and security of the traditional family at the hands of a mother and father who can only be described in hindsight as wholly unfit to parent, but whose journey is as fascinating as it is doomed. With these two, the dynamics that are at play are as intricate as the voices are strong, and everyone in their orbit comes away with at least a partial ticket to their ship wreck.

Deb’s detailed and appraising effort to sort out the path of a life that would lead to such a tragic end, results in a book that is at once a tribute and memorial to her brother, a soul search for the reader, and a call to arms for recognizing the utter importance of the early childhood years as a foundation for a well-rounded and fully formed adulthood. Might it also be a conscious or unconscious attempt to protect all the young and innocent souls that come after?

I hope so.

Closing the Gate is simply and frankly written. The author pulls you into her story and doesn’t let you go. In fact, you will be thinking about this one long after you close the book.


Deb Simpson’s familial voices ring with authenticity, call out to us from the pages of Closing the Gate, and pull the reader into the midst of a deeply troubled family where Simpson’s conversational tone insists that we pay attention. She writes with great courage and honesty in examining Jimmy’s plight: his dream of a place to call home, his tumble into the world of a cult, and the inevitable downward spiral that his lonely life takes. She causes us to examine and reflect on the crucial developmental years and every child’s yearning to belong.

Susan Ashley Michael, author of Crossing the Bridge of Sighs 

Deb Simpson has once more done a wonderful job with her new book, Closing the Gate, which examines through narrative the upbringing and household of herself and her brother Jimmy, a former cult member who kills himself in the aftermath of the Heavens’ Gate suicide.  Both entertaining and insightful, this real-life tale illustrates the effects of early childhood on individuals and what may drive one sibling to the brink and the other to overcome. 

The story was wonderfully executed, told through the eyes of Deb Simpson, her mother, stepfather, and her brother himself, Jimmy.  Each personality has their own intricately nuanced voice, lending to a greater understanding of their personalities, obstacles, and experiences. 

Each section draws you in by getting you to invest in the character, as they tell you their stories, one on one. Both tragic and inspiring, this book has given me new insight.  To understand the almost incomprehensible insanity of mental illness, walking the same path again and again whilst hoping for change, was an abstract to me beforehand. 

Even more enlightening was Jimmy’s description of Heaven’s Gate.  For the first time, I could grasp the appeal of a cult and the subtle vulnerabilities which can make a seemingly normal person at risk of falling prey to their promise of a better life.  For me, this story has been enriching in ways I could never have expected, and I believe it can be a valuable tool to anyone who is struggling to understand a loved one’s choices or the motivations of those reaching for a new family and “the Next Level.”

Matthew Watts, Murfreesboro TN 


“Closing the Gate” is a powerful examination into the inner workings of our minds and the power we often give others over our beliefs and decisions.  The image of this young boy, and the loneliness and abandonment of his childhood, surrounded with dysfunctional and mental illness, is both intriguing and abhorrent. This is a book to remind us all how important the first five years of a child’s life are, and how the rest of their lives can be forever damaged, by the losses of those early years. 

Monica Devine, L.M.H.C., Jacksonville, FL
" Closing the Gate is one of the most enjoyable and engaging biographical books I have read. It is a gripping, emotional, and touching true story that I found impossible to put down once I began. It is not only one of the most personal stories I've ever had the pleasure to read, but one of the most fascinating dives into the Heaven's Gate Cult that I have ever plunged into. No one should miss out on reading this, no one."  
Nelson Maddaloni , MTSU
I have read your brilliant book twice now, as well as passed it along to my intern to read as well.  Being very familiar with this group, your story really touched my heart.  Being a former child abuse / sex crimes investigator who worked a bit on the case from Orange County, CA, and now an interfaith pastor, my healing blessings and empathy go out to you and your family.  You are a true hero in my book, and sharing this important story will enable others to heal and hopefully come forward and find empowerment.

Thanks so much for allowing me an early glimpse into the work.

Deep Peace to you,
 Pastor C. Branagain Garlick
NW Oregon