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A Very Capable Life

Athabasca University Press | Our Lives: Diary, Memoir, and Letters

Written in his mother’s unique voice, John Leigh Walters pushes the boundaries of memoir in A Very Capable Life, the extraordinary journey of a seemingly ordinary woman.Zarah Petri was a child when her family left Hungary to establish a new life in Canada in the 1920s. With courage and innovation, Zarah and her family survived the Depression?even if it meant breaking the law to do so. In celebrating Zarah Petri, A Very Capable Life pays homage to all “ordinary” women of the early twentieth century who challenged society’s conventions for the sake of survival.


“Walters offers the story of his mother’s journey from Hungary to Canada as a feminine picaresque with the indomitable Zarah in the dual roles of heroine and storyteller. In recreating his mother as a resourceful and often hilarious character, Walters’ sustained act of literary ventriloquism captures the ingenuity and passion of the diasporic narrative in Canadian cultural history.”


John Leigh Walters spent a lifetime writing, producing, and hosting television programs in both the United States and Canada. Notably, with Metropolitan Opera star Vivienne Della Chiesa, he co-hosted a daily television talk show on WLW-TV in Cincinnati, Ohio. More recently he produced and hosted interview programs on the CTV outlet in the Waterloo, ON. He lives in Kitchener, ON.

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