NC Literary Hall of Fame



What a Wonderful World This Could Be by Lee Zacharias

Madville Publishing
$19.95, paperback / $9.95, e-book
ISBN: 978-1-948692-50-2
June, 2021
Fiction: Literary
Available from your local bookstore or

“Lee Zacharias brings the 1960s and ‘80s to life with a poet’s precision and a novelist’s sense of drama in this luminous, riveting story. Spare, unflinching, and deeply compassionate, What a Wonderful World This Could Be is both a historical novel about political, artistic, and sexual awakening (and re-awakening), and a powerful mirror for our own time. I was gripped from the first page to the last. Alex’s journey from brilliant, neglected teen to mature artist broke my heart and renewed my faith in humanity in equal measure. This novel is a gift.”
—Abigail DeWitt, author of News of Our Loved Ones

What a Wonderful World This Could Be, Lee Zacharias’s incantatory novel, is a complex, generous, unflinching portrait of Alex—a romantically conflicted, artistically gifted young woman who comes of age during the tumultuous sixties. Reading it is like hearing Dylan or Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen, but for the first time. There isn’t a smidgeon of nostalgia or sentimentality here. In fact, the world it invites us into couldn’t feel more timely or more true. It’s about loss and love and about how we can’t know one without the other.”
—Tommy Hays, author of The Pleasure Was Mine

“’At the center of every art is a question of allegiance,’ Lee Zacharias writes in What a Wonderful World This Could Be, a riveting novel that foregrounds the personal fallout of the political maelstrom that was the American Radical Left in the 1960s and ’70s. Zacharias’s allegiance is to a narrative that refuses compromise in its revelations of the highs and lows of fighting for a just cause in an unjust world, and the price photographer Alex pays for seeing clearly what others around her will not: in life, as in politics, actions have consequences, many of them irreparable.”
—Kat Meads, author of For You, Madam Lenin

What Alex, illegitimate daughter of an alcoholic novelist and an artist, has always wanted is family. At 15, she falls in love with a 27-year-old photographer, whom she will leave when she comes under the spell of Ted Neal, a charismatic activist on his way to Mississippi for 1964's Freedom Summer. That fall Ted organizes a collective that turns to the growing antiwar movement. Ultimately the radical group Weatherman destroys the "family" Alex and Ted have created, and in 1971 Ted disappears while under FBI investigation. When Ted surfaces eleven years later, Alex must put her life back together in order to discover what true family means.

Lee Zacharias is the author of four novels, a collection of essays, and a collection of short stories. She has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council, has twice won the North Carolina Sir Walter Raleigh Award for a book of fiction, and has received many other prizes, including two silver medals from the Independent Publisher Book Awards and the Phillip H. McMath Book Award. Her previous novel Across the Great Lake was named a 2019 Notable Michigan Book, and her essays, which have appeared in numerous journals, have been cited and reprinted in The Best American Essays. She co-edited an anthology of short fiction titled Runaway and has taught at Princeton University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she is Emerita Professor of English. A native of the Midwest, she lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. Learn more at

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