What a Wonderful World This Could Be

Written by Lee Zacharias
Review by Jackie Drohan

This deeply realistic and affecting novel spans the life of Alex, a teacher at an art college, beginning in the U.S in the early 1960s. The story illuminates in intimate detail the chaotic process by which idealism can bear unexpected and destructive consequences.

Alex’s childhood—if ever she had one—ends abruptly in 1960 when, as a teenager, she falls for the older and inspiring photographer Steve Kendrick, and her best friend Jo Ann is left bewildered by Alex’s sudden lack of motivation to frolic with boys at the town pool. Her disinterested artist mother and alcoholic father had left Alex having to weave her own sort of family unit, largely making it up as she goes along.

The novel opens at a later time, however, when in the early 1980s Alex is surprised by media news of her long-estranged husband, one-time civil rights activist and radical fugitive Ted Neal, shot by an unknown assailant while surrendering to federal authorities.

Zacharias writes in a breathtakingly sumptuous style with microscopic perspective: every detail is a metaphor; every byte of dialog advances the narrative. Even secondary characters are richly dimensional, with distinctive and disparate voices. We track the evolution of Ted’s mother, Justine, from hippie matriarch of a family of free thinkers and seekers to a lost and disillusioned older woman. Alex’s struggle for resolution of lifelong passions and barriers quickly draws the reader in. Highly recommended.