|Father Joe Gramel
& Pastor James Stone
(creator: John Paul Carinci)
|Father Joe GramelI is a 42-year-old Jesuit priest who is pastor of a small congregation on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, where he has served for seven years. Born in Brooklyn, he has brown eyes, and is 5ft 7in tall. He describes himself at the start of the book as "slightly grey, and a little soft in the middle -- maybe twenty pounds overweight. Complacent. In a boring rut". His belief in God had come to him at the age of eight when he had almost drowned, and had become convinced "that God had saved my life". He went on to attend seminary at St Michael's in Boston, and had begun his parish work with high hopes, but now feels that there is much more he could and should do. His problem, he says, "is that I'm a thinker" who "had planned, dreamed and yearned but actually done very little."
Pastor James Stone has been Joe's friend since their seminary days ten years before. He is aged 33, and is 6ft tall, and "ruggedly handsome" with "baby blue eyes" and dark hair. Five years ago he had left the Catholic Church, very disillusioned with its ways, and, feeling a need for love that only a woman and children could satisfy, he had "started his own ministry, a small church in a suburb of Boston, married a nice woman, and had two children". He now feels fulfilled and believes "that he's serving God better than ever". Joe describes him as "the most patient person I have ever met; he's never frazzled, never angry."
John Paul Carinci (year of birth?) has been a successful business owner for 30 years. Currently, he is President of Carinci Insurance Agency Inc., with over 200 brokers. He is also an author, songwriter, and poet. He is the CEO of Better Off Dead Productions Inc., a movie production company. As a writer, his works (that are mostly about self-improvement) include: “Better Off Dead,” “A Second Chance”, “Be Different,” “Reflections In Poetry,” “Better Off Dead Again,” “In Exchange Of Life,” and "The Power Of Being Different."
In Exchange of Life (2003)
It does not seem a very likely story, to put it mildly, and there is a great deal of repetition as Joe, who is the narrator throughout, constantly tells us how harmful drugs are, particularly where teenagers are concerned, and how he is constantly yearning to fulfil himself by serving God through actions not just by words. A professional editor might have drawn the author's attention to all these repetitions, and also tidied up his sometimes rather uncertain use of punctuation and capital letters.
The opening paragraph reveals his slightly awkward style: "Frantically, I packed, not knowing what to throw in the duffel bag - the one that was waiting patiently, looking back at me from the once tranquil bed. Not remembering what I had already packed, I caught a glimpse of my hands. They were shaking like the leaves of the palm tree outside my window. My face was flushed; my eyes moist from tears. I could feel my heart pounding inside my chest. It was a task just to walk with legs so wobbly, like I had borrowed them."
When it comes to discussing the evils of drugs (as he so frequently does), Joe is quite prepared to treat us to little sermons as when he writes: "I will search as long as I can to find the source of the drugs and maybe, just possibly, the next life that is saved might be that of an innocent ten-year-old child. This child could very easily be swayed into a life that appears to be exciting, different, cool and renegade-like. This is a lifestyle that will make them appear to be cool to their classmates until they get sucked in way over their heads." And so it goes on.
Joe even carefully explains to a drug dealer: "We know that many people feel overwhelmed with their problems and life in general. Drugs, alcohol, fire arms, even a bridge - all look too inviting to some of these individuals. These people could normally be helped with their problems but, unfortunately, many find their own answer, the deadly or self-destructive answer. This is one that is too easily available to them by ruthless, money-sucking leeches, known as 'drug lords' or main drug distributors." All this can hardly have come across as new information to the dealer.
The author shows a similar naivety when, on his flight to New York, Joe tells us that, "I found it amazing that something so big and heavy can fly through the air so gracefully and land so gently on the ground. Men had duplicated God's creation of the bird, wings and all. But, God has us beat; we will never totally match his creations even if we try thousands of years." And his less than fluent style is seen again when "We were handed some nuts and drinks. All I could think of as I ate the peanuts was, 'these will surely constipate everyone.' That was precisely the thinking behind those dreaded airplane nuts. Can you imagine half the passengers on the plane eating something that would give them all the runs at the same time? My mind does sometimes work in strange ways; I have an animated imagination."
At other times Joe seems to have read some of the author's self-improvement, build-up your-confidence books, because he starts every day with the prayer: "Thank you, Lord, for this new and glorious day. As I look out my window, I see a light blue sky with puffs of soft white clouds more brilliant than any painting or picture I've ever seen. I will not waste this day. I will cherish this precious gift you have entrusted me with .... These will be my finest hours. I further vow to be kinder and gentler to every person I meet, no matter who they are or what they may do. Because, even though it is more difficult to be kinder, gentler, and to build someone up, rather than tear them down; and to look for the gold and silver dirt in each person, it is so much more rewarding. Yes, this will be the best day of my life." What he prays on rainy days, we are not told.
Later on we are given a different set of words that Joe is said to say every morning, which sound even more as if they come straight from a help-yourself book: "I feel healthy, I feel happy; I feel terrific. I like myself! I like myself! I like myself! I will be successful; it is inevitable because my aggressiveness will equal opportunities for my successes. I can! I will! I want to!"
Father Joe also sometimes sounds distinctly smug, as when the plane has to abort its landing, and he wonders "what it would be like if I had died. I wasn't scared to be judged; my life was good, my religion strong. My problem would be sitting in front of the Lord as all my accomplishments were being tallied up. My life would be acceptable. Most people would be satisfied, even proud, but not me. I'd know in my heart just how short I had fallen, how much more I could have done." You would have thought God might have known this too!
Joe was convinced that it was outside in the streets where he'd "meet the real people, the ones with real problems. Church was where the holy go to worship and pray. The people I was trying to help, and help rid society of, were deeply seated in the streets, far away from the safe and holy little church." So, in order to confront a drug supplier, he and James disguise themselves as Tony and Aldo Crego of Two Guys Construction. The description of them being kitted out and having to "enjoy" a full body massage (for no very good reason) is the most entertaining part of the story, and leads them eventually to confront the kingpin of the drug suppliers who seems strangely accessible and who "gave me a strange look and stared straight into my eyes long and hard. He tried to pierce my eyes with his." But before he gets down to the serious business of cross examining/killing them, he even offers them some food: "You must be hungry," he says. Then Joe invents a story about the boss's henchman betraying him to the FBI, and the boss shoots his colleague. Joe comments that the boss "was clearly troubled with all that had just happened"!
Then Joe and James are amazingly rescued, and Joe can happily return to his church believing that "We can be even more effective in our churches with this new-found experience." He is not really a very convincing character.
New copies of the book are available on a print-to-order basis. As there are comparatively few printed, used copies may not be easy to find.
|This is a self-published book that is printed to order.|