Zacharias, Lee: What a Wonderful World this Could Be

Alex has always wanted a real family. Her father commits suicide, her mother has never noticed where she is, and at 15, she falls in love with a 27-year-old photographer. When she comes of age, she’s about to marry him, but someone else has turned her head, Ted Neal, a charismatic activist on his way to Mississippi for 1964’s Freedom Summer. Alex just wants to take pictures, but she and Ted invite some of his friends to live together in a collective that functions like a sort of family. Alex is happy, but the conversations focus in on anti-war movement of the 60s, and some of the so-called family members get radicalized by the ‘Weathermen.’ Alex is incensed to learn that the FBI is following her even after the ‘family’ disperses and shocked when Ted disappears. Eleven years later he shows up again, but now he’s dying and Alex, who hasn’t remarried, has to figure out what love means.

Lee Zacharias, who holds degrees from Indiana University Hollins, College, and the University of Arkansas, has taught at Princeton University and the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where she is Emerita Professor of English, as well as many conferences, most recently the Wildacres Writers Workshop. She is the author of a collection of short stories, Helping Muriel Make It Through the Night; three previous novels, Across the Great Lake, Lessons, and At Random; and a collection of personal essays, The Only Sounds We Make. She has co-edited an anthology of stories, Runaway, released in 2020, with Luanne Smith and Michael Gills. Zacharias has received fellowships and is a recipient of several awards. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals, including, among others, The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Five Points, Gettysburg Review, Crab Orchard Review, Outdoor Photographer, and Our State. Her essays have been named Notable Essays of the Year by The Best American Essays, which reprinted her essay “Buzzards” in The Best American Essays 2008, and she served as editor of The Greensboro Review for a decade.