Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: poverty, death, abandonment, molestation.
Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
One of my very first books reviews was The Eighty-Dollar Champion by Letts, and I was excited to see that she was coming out with a new novel in 2019. I passed up on an opportunity to snag it at a local bookshop (which was stupid), having decided on a no-spend month, but while looking for my next audiobook, I came across the title again. I just knew I had to read it.
Finding Dorothy is based on the true origin story of The Wizard of Oz, as told through Maud Baum, wife of Oz’s author, Frank Baum. The novel starts off on the production set of the 1939 movie. Maud, in her elderly age, is demanding to be seen by the producers. Frank has been deceased for some time, so Maud has been determined to make sure that the production of The Wizard of Oz stays true to the way he always imagined it. Knowing that much of their life together inspired the story, she has more insight on Oz than anyone alive, including secrets that nobody but Frank and her know.
After some clever manipulation and some determination that her feminist suffragette mother would be proud of, Maud gets to have her words with the producers, stating that she is there to protect Oz and more importantly, Dorothy. From there, she is introduced to young Judy Garland. Though Maud has her reservations about Judy playing Dorothy, she quickly strikes up a kinship with the girl, so finds herself protecting her well being as well. As production continues, Maud finds her way on set, finds a way to get the script, and as much as she can, adds her insight to certain elements of the movie.
Then, in alternating chapters, the reader flashes back to the origins of the novel- from Maud’s childhood, to how she met Frank, and finally, to how the land of Oz came to be. Without revealing too much, each chapter shows a little easter-egg that sparked inspiration for the land of Oz and it’s characters. Each influence isn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy memory, but the marriage between Frank and Maud is especially touching and is clearly what held the most influence on Oz. Though the couple had their own obstacles to overcome, Frank could always draw inspiration from Maud- even in the toughest times.
I adored this novel, and really enjoyed the narration on the audiobook as well. Letts’ writing underlines the strong female character, brought up by an even stronger mother, who then finds the perfect match in a supportive, charismatic, and loving husband. The narrator, Ann Marie Lee, brought these characters alive for me, and made me fall for Frank just as much as Maud did. Not to spoil it, but the emerald ring moment just gave me butterflies, it was so adorable. Letts recaptured the classic childhood tale of Oz and allows readers to relive the fond memories of the movie, as well as learn more about the beloved story.
As Letts mentions in the novel, everyone remembers their first time watching the movie, and though I don’t remember too many details, I remember being terrified of the Wicked Witch and her monkeys… I was pretty young, and since then I don’t think I’ve re-watched it in it’s entirety. So I encourage you all give Finding Dorothy a read, as I know I’ll be heading back to the bookstore to pick up a copy (like I should have a week ago) … and renting the movie to watch again.
TL/DR: Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts is a historical fiction about Maud Baum, wife of The Wizard of Oz author, Frank L. Baum.
Read it? Yes!!! It’s the magic of Oz all over again, but better because Maud is one tough broad!
Recommend it? Yes, and for all ages. This book is so wholesome!
Buy it? Absolutely. I listened to the audiobook and then went straight to a book store to buy a copy for my own collection.
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