ECU grad student pens novel on faith, attitudes in rural North Carolina town
East Carolina University graduate student and adjunct professor Jim Metzger has published “Dim,” a novel that examines faith and attitudes in a small and rural, devout North Carolina community.
Metzger establishes a first-person narrative through Methodist minister Tom Maloney, who questions his beliefs and suitability for his chosen profession as he deals with issues such as bigotry, hypocrisy, suicide, patricide, homosexuality, spousal abuse and child abuse.
While events and characters in the story are fictional, Metzger said his observations are drawn upon personal experiences from a brief foray in the ministerial profession. He served as a minister for rural congregations in Georgia and North Carolina, in towns similar to fictional Harmony, N.C., where the novel is set.
“The job wasn’t a good fit for me, just as it’s not for the story’s narrator,” Metzger said.
Metzger said he wrote the novel with university students in mind after teaching a course that required composition, critical thinking and critical reading.
“Some of the novels we read just weren’t good conversation starters, so I thought it would be kind of nice to write what I wasn’t finding,” Metzger said.
Conversation starters in “Dim” include the narrator’s attempts to minister to his congregation, despite duties and personalities he finds disagreeable. The minister’s tolerant and inclusive outlook falls far afield of the severe approach favored by his congregants in the Bible-belt community. The conflicts eventually lead the minister to crisis and difficult personal choices.
Readers may also be drawn to the novel’s adventurous elements that include a boat overturned in shark-infested waters, suspicious deaths in the midst of a hurricane and an outbreak of food poisoning at the church’s annual potluck supper.
Metzger holds masters and doctoral degrees in religion from Vanderbilt University and a master of divinity form Princeton Theological Seminary. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. Metzger served as a visiting assistant professor of religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, before enrolling at ECU as a full-time graduate student in English. He has taught religion as an adjunct instructor at ECU and will teach a course for Pitt Community College in the fall.