Saturday, July 3, 2021

What a Wonderful World This Could Be by Lee Zacharias


Sometimes, you need to look at others to see yourself. Today, many of us are so certain of our beliefs that we become frozen and incapable of growth. Reading allows us to look into the past and see who we are. What a Wonderful World This Could Be once again showcases author Lee Zacharias’s talents as a writer who “sees” to focus on people who believe so strongly in an ideology that their rigidity casts them adrift. The novel opens in 1982 when Alex, a photographer and professor at a Virginia school, hears her husband Ted’s name on the TV news as she’s leaving the local YMCA after her morning swim. She hasn’t heard from Ted in eleven years and hasn’t known if he was alive since he disappeared. Now she learns that he’s in critical condition after having been shot while turning himself in to authorities. Ted’s reappearance forces Alex to revisit her life and confront her current situation. 

Alex’s single mother, an emotionally distant, uncaring artist and professor at a Midwestern university, paid little attention to Alex and allowed her too much freedom as a child. Alex didn’t learn who her father was until she was ten and he then showed very little interest in her. She sought and found connection at age fifteen when she fell in love with Steve, a 27-year-old photographer working in her mother’s department at the university. From Steve she learned to see both as a budding photographer and as a person. 

Two years later in 1964, she fell for Ted, an activist involved in the Mississippi civil rights struggles and the peace movement. Ted and Alex joined a local group and lived together in a commune-like arrangement that gave Alex a semblance of belonging. When the group was enveloped by radical Weatherman followers and the government charged Ted with a crime, he disappeared and Alex was once again adrift.

While using the lens of her writing, Zacharias hones her eye on the different aspects of the civil rights, peace, and justice movements of the 1960s and how lack of focus on humanity made it possible to avoid connections and sacrifice people for the sake of an ideology. Alex is a metaphor for seeing but not connecting the dots to mature into a fully functional adult. 

Summing It Up: Readers wanting to learn more about the 1960s will find no better guide to the times and the people. Zacharias’s use of a fictional school, based on Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana rings true for the time, place, and people populating it. Her photographic eye captures her characters as they choose whether to see what’s around them or hide in frozen ideas. 

Rating: 4 Stars

Category: Fiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Pigeon Pie, Super Nutrition, Book Club

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

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