Melanie Dobson: Novel details fight to escape abusive cult
(June 2008)—In an old German abbey, a young woman named Sara is trapped in an abusive
religious cult and doesn’t know how to break free. At the same time, another young woman
named Elise is traveling across Germany to search for answers about her mother’s death. When
Elise tracks her mother’s past to the abbey’s locked gates, she uncovers the dark secret that
once ensnared her mother and fights for a way out of the darkness before the same man that
destroyed her mother, destroys her and Sara as well.
In her novel The Black Cloister (Kregel Publications), Melanie Dobson portrays the
manipulation of an abusive cult leader and offers hope and freedom to those who have become
trapped in a religious cult. “
What is your new novel about?
The Black Cloister is a fast-paced suspense story about two young women—one who is traveling
across Germany in search of answers about her past and another who is trapped in an abusive
religious cult and doesn’t know how to break free. The novel is layered with insight about balancing
God’s grace with good works and offers hope and freedom to those who have become trapped in a
toxic religious group.
Where did you get the inspiration for this book?
My family and I lived for a season in the former East Berlin. Our flat was a block from the old wall,
and my life was changed as I stumbled my way through conversations with local merchants, roamed
the back streets of the city, visited Martin Luther’s Wittenberg, and learned about both the triumph
of the Reformation and the terrifying days of Communist rule.
Before we came back to the United States, a story began to form in my mind about Katharina von
Bora’s (Martin Luther’s wife) escape from a German abbey and the freedom she found in Christ,
but a thread was still missing. I waited—and waited—for inspiration until I met a woman who had
been raised overseas in an abusive cult. As I listened to her stories and began researching cults, the
idea about freedom grew into a novel that exposes the corruption and control of cults as well as
discusses the balance of God’s grace with obedience and the importance of doing good works.
Do you think readers will be surprised by this story?
I was shocked by the stories I heard from people who had been raised in cults. Unless the reader
grew up in a cult, she will probably be surprised as well by what still goes on in cults around the
world. My intent is not to be gratuitous. It is to demonstrate the dark hold that many cult leaders
have on their followers and to show how the truth, light, and power of God can break through this
Why do you write Christian fiction?
Before I began writing fiction, God used Christian fiction to mold and change my life. My desire is
that The Black Cloister, along with each of my novels, demonstrates God’s significant purpose for
each of His children, and as I seek after God, I pray the stories He's etched in my heart give readers
a glimpse of His love and grace even when they don’t understand His plan.
What do you hope readers will take away after reading The Black Cloister?
As Christians we must listen to the voice and wisdom of God and measure any spiritual instruction
with His Word. My hope is that this novel will offer healing to those who have been ensnared by a
toxic religious group, and after reading this story, I also hope readers will be both sympathetic
toward those who have been born into a cult and intolerant of spiritual leaders who abuse their