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Moses-Hall Discusses First Novel in Edenton

Joy Moses-HallWINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College instructor Joy Moses-Hall was in Edenton last month, discussing her book “Wretched Refuge” at a program held in Shepard-Pruden Memorial Library.

Hall, who holds a Ph.D. in oceanography and teaches a variety of science courses at PCC, published a book last year about a loner who lives off the land in secluded areas of the Tar River and exacts revenge on those she feels have wronged her. It is available for sale on Amazon.com.

A native of upstate New York, Hall and her husband, Rick, have lived in Greenville for 15 years. Though her background includes attendance at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and a good deal of science education, she says writing has long been a passion and that she has even won third place in a national short story contest.

“In elementary school, I was a literary bully—the one who wrote the class play, the skits, the school newspaper articles, and the minutes of the Girl Scout meetings,” Hall said. “I blame my parents, who made me keep a journal of our summer vacations.”

Hall said her inspiration for writing “Wretched Refuge” stemmed from a desire to understand the motives of Ted Kaczynski, a domestic terrorist perhaps better known as the “Unabomber.” She said she wanted to find out how someone like Kaczynski could turn his back on society to live as a recluse and engage in a nationwide bombing campaign against people involved with modern technology.

“I tried to get inside Kaczynski's head and imagine what it would take to become so angry that modern convenience is not worth even the most minimal human interaction,” Hall said. “Being a hermit is hard, as anyone who has ever made a jar of jam from scratch knows.”

Having read the Unabomber’s manifesto, Hall said that while Kaczynski rants about the effects of the Industrial Revolution and expounds on his need to reject modern society, he never explains why he was so angry that he felt he had to kill people. She said her novel’s main character is driven from society by “a much more personal anger.”

In writing “Wretched Refuge,” Hall said she drew upon tales she heard from her uncle while growing up, along with her oceanography research, experiences at the Coast Guard Academy, and her husband’s stories as a trapper. The story’s characters, she said, are composites of people she’s met along the East Coast.

“I met a lot of rough characters when I worked cutting fish at the docks in New Jersey, each of whom, in his/her own way, gave me an understanding of what it might be like to live at the margins, and they form the psyche of the fictional characters,” Hall said.

Hall said that while most people have moments in which they “want to get away from it all,” it’s rare for individuals to leave the life they’ve known behind and disappear into the wilderness. She noted that Kaczynski’s reign of terror lasted 17 years and that he lived as a hermit for even longer.

“Can you imagine that you turn away and live in self-imposed exile, just because of the Industrial Revolution,” Hall asked. “I'm not there, but I can see how a personal crisis could drive one into the wilderness. And my novel veered into that mode.”

“Nobody [who has read the book] has admitted to feeling as estranged as the book characters,” she continued, “but some readers have found it to be compelling enough to read multiple times.”

During her appearance in Edenton, Hall spoke about how her novel came about. She said her presentation included pictures of dock rats, boats (she was in the Coast Guard, after all) and her husband, who trapped his way through a biology degree in New York and was the source for the main character’s knowledge of animal trapping.