Joe says what started as a 500-word short story assignment gained its own momentum and evolved to a 52,000-word narrative. The story begins in the late 1950s in his old neighborhood, which he says was "a casualty of urban renewal" in the mid 1960s. He hopes the early chapters speak to the people who remember the Gloucester, Mass. of past decades, particularly those who lived along the waterfront in the neighborhood that once surrounded the Fitz Hugh Lane House. But he warns that the theme of his story is far from reminiscing about the good old days and remembering historical landmarks. This is passionate writing about serious topics; even poignant at times, yet it manages to incorporate a degree of humor for balance. Above all, the material is exceptionally thought provoking.
"The Narrow Gate: A Journey Through Identity, Belief, and Perception" is a fictional account of Joe's tumultuous young life through the character of Salvatore DeSanti while growing up in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Its message is unique in that it adheres to what's important in the non-fiction of its genre (Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson) while casting this importance into an educational showcase about his search for a greater truth. Complementary to both A Course in Miracles and the Hermetic philosophy of The Kybalion, the ideas expressed address the roots of conflict in an interdependent yet largely intolerant society.
"It had to be fictional," Joe says. "Salvatore has an inter-dimensional experience in a parallel life. I did that for dramatic effect, to add flair to the conveyance of the message; otherwise, there would have been a lack of color, which is another way of saying I didn't think people would care to read dry non-fiction about my ideas, beliefs, and life experiences."
The book alludes to anxiety attacks and substance abuse, and mentions the toll the latter has taken on Gloucester since the early 1970s. Appropriate to such grievous occurrences, its overall theme escalates spiritually during his otherworldly journey when he receives lessons from higher beings. They teach him the dynamics of belief and explain the Law of Perception. Part of their mission is to steer him toward the repressed memories affecting his life. In the process, these high entities help Salvatore awaken to his core identity - a higher reality. Panoramic scenes unfold to display forgotten truths, laying bare the reason behind inequality in an all-inclusive universe.
The difference between man-made religion and spirituality is brought to light with the belief that there can be no separation from what we call God. Sexual orientation, cultural differences, and religious interpretations of the sin concept are depicted from a broader perspective. Joe's sharing is an interfacing of his most personal experiences with the truth he found within himself through the help of metaphysics, which is a study of the fundamentals of thought and natural laws of the universe.
"This isn't a drone about my past misfortunes. I dug deep and wrote about solutions. I survived fear-based religion, anxiety attacks, alcohol and substance abuse - and more. I'm far from perfect, but I've learned not to define myself by my experiences or by other people's perceptions - past, present, good or bad. That's powerful and life changing. I must have something helpful to say."