OCEAN CITY – Every writer hopes to someday complete “the Great American novel”, and although no one is comparing former Ocean City Councilman Vince Gisriel, Jr.’s first book to the work of Jack Kerouac or Kurt Vonnegut just yet, he has truly succeeded in telling the timeless love story of an American hero and his bride, who waited patiently in the wings from a world away during World War II.
Gisriel released his first book (which he self-published), entitled “Hearts Away, Bombs Away” last month and it’s a book that he says is a “true labor of love.”
“This story literally fell in my lap,” said Gisriel. “While looking for other information, I found these letters that were kept in my sister’s attic that truly moved me and in some cases brought me to tears.”
Writers often get attached to the characters they portray, but in this case, Gisriel actually found a greater appreciation and saw a different side of his real-life subjects, as his story chronicles the love affair between his father and mother, which endured through more than 1,100 letters written during World War II while his father served this country as a bombardier dropping bombs on Hitler’s Germany.
Gisriel, whose father Vincent Sr. passed away in 2003, was originally hoping to find information that would honor his father’s military history, after being told numerous stories from his father’s former comrades in the military after his passing.
What Gisriel found, however, was a different and much more tender story of love and sacrifice.
“My mother passed away in 1977, and she never got to meet eight of her grandchildren, so this book will tell their story and be a lineage for my own family to look back on in a way,” said Gisriel, “but I really want people to take away a greater appreciation of the sacrifices that those in the military have made and are still making today when they read this book.”
The intimate letters between Lieutenant Gisriel and his wife Martha are moving in many ways especially when the reader realizes the themes of uncertainty caused by the war, the tumultuous time for families back in America and the vast distance between two people that held so much love for one another. There is an obvious longing between two young people, (Gisriel enlisted at 19 and was a lieutenant by 21) that is apparent in these letters, and the way that the author puts the story together and presents not only the historical data, which serves as the backdrop for his parent’s love story, is impressive and oftentimes as touching at it is voyeuristic.
“It truly shows a simpler time in our society,” said Gisriel, “and it’s unbelievable how eloquent they were in communicating their love for one another. There were no cell phones or email back then, so these letters were their only means of communication for 34 months, and they had a thousand different ways to tell each other that they loved one another.”
The letters also address the author, Vince Jr.’s birth and early years, including, most notably, a touching letter dated Nov. 26, 1944 from Vince Sr. to his six-month-old son (the author) whom he had yet to meet. Gisriel Jr,, whom is lovingly referred to in many of the letters as “Little Giz”, is told “you’re too little to understand now, but they tell me there’s a war on, and I have to be here, and you there. It won’t be long tho, and you and mommie and I will be together again.”
Gisriel recruited the help of Whitey Schmidt of Crisfield, Md., who has been a self-published author for the past 20 years, including “The Chesapeake Bay Crabbiest Cookbook”, to handle the business end of this endeavor. Gisriel said that he estimates that he needs to sell about 1,400 books to make back his initial investment.
Gisriel spoke to The Dispatch from San Francisco after completing a book signing, and he will complete one more in Malibu before heading back east for local signings, including one at The Globe in Berlin on July 25.
Gisriel said even if he doesn’t sell a single book, he feels the story of his parents was an experience he will never forget.
“I never knew that my father was such a true romantic, and my mother jokes in the book that someday they would have a lot to tell their grandchildren about and now the story is being told,” said Gisriel. “But more importantly, I think that in these times, Americans need a boost about true patriotism and to know that love has a way of surviving through the most difficult of times.”
Kerouac once said, “I hope that it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others, but give them life, not only in life, but in the consciousness of life.”
The tale of Gisriel’s parents is a true affirmation of loving legacy, and a reaffirmation of all the things that are consciously and unconsciously important in this world, so perhaps in that sense, the Gisriel’s wartime love story could be comparable to the words of Kerouac.
Yet, even Gisriel admits he wasn’t trying to write the Great American novel, but rather, he just wanted to chronicle a “really great American love story.”
To learn more about the book, head to www.heartsawaybombsaway.com