Lee Zacharias’ ‘At Random’

by Ruth Moose

At Random
by Lee Zacharias
Fugitive Poets Press
$19.95, paperback, 450 pp.

After my husband died, a friend asked how I was. I said “Fine,” though I was anything but. “I just want normal,” I added.

“Don’t you know?” she asked, “Normal is just the setting on the dryer.”

I thought of that exchange reading Lee Zacharias’s new novel, At Random. How normal days and lives can go from a single incident to horrific.

On an ordinary evening, Guy and Eva Ferrin have been out to dinner and the opera. Each had 2 glasses of wine with the meal, yet hours later, driving an unknown street home in the rain, there is an accident in which a child is killed.

Guy’s blood alcohol is .02, yet he’s charged with DWI and even taken to the police station. From there the Ferrins’ lives escalate even more out of control making their marriage at stake, loss of their home, friends, their whole world in collapse.

The boy killed in the accident was a Montagnard, from a tribe of mountain people in Vietnam who aided the US in the war. Greensboro has the world’s largest community of Montgnards outside Asia. One question that haunts the book as well as Guy and Eva is whether the boy hit their car or did they hit him? You want to believe in law enforcement and legal services as taxpayers we have available, but here they only add to the nightmare. And we run into an attorney with his hand out for $20,000 to try to untangle a situation that only becomes more of a Gordian knot daily. The Ferrins have to borrow the money.

Zacharias writes breathtakingly beautiful prose. She is so skilled at putting you in the shoes and lives of these characters, you feel you live next door, know them from church. A book I couldn’t put down. And I can’t recommend highly enough. At Random’s quiet strengths will move you mightly and marvelously.

RUTH MOOSE published stories in Atlantic, Redbook, the new renaissance, North American Review and many other places. Her stories also appeared in publications in England, Sweden, Denmark and South Africa. Some were broadcast on NPR. She has had Pushcart Awards, a MacDowell Fellowship, an NEA and teaching awards as a member of the creative writing faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill.