Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Finding Dorothy (Elizabeth Letts)

I have to admit that I was slightly skeptical when I read the premise of Elizabeth Letts's Finding Dorothy. If the "Dorothy" in the title refers to THAT one -- of The Wizard of Oz fame, then why is the book mostly about Maud Baum's life? Maud being the wife of L. Frank Baum, the famed author of one of the most beloved books of all time. The fact is that the two are interconnected more than anyone ever realized.

Even though Finding Dorothy tells us this story through historical fiction, Letts weaves in the thorough research she conducted on the life of the Baums and how one of the most famous movies came to be. So how does Maud's life get us to how L. Frank Baum "found" Dorothy? Maud was the daughter of Matilda Gage, one of the hardest-working suffragists you probably never heard of. Maud's mother taught her to be fiercely independent, and when Maud meets Judy Garland during the filming of the movie, she tries to teach her the same principles. Maud falls in love with Frank because of his creativity and kindness. No, he will never make much money (that is, until his magnum opus is published), but she adores him just the same.

It is incredibly interesting how Letts switches from Maud's early life and marriage to Frank and her elderly years when the movie is being filmed. All she wants to do is guard Frank's legacy and make sure the story he put on paper is the story the audience will see. The book is filled with delightful "Aha!" moments when readers understand that Frank did not just make up Toto, the Scarecrow, and the rest. And yes, the origin of Dorothy is explained, too. This is a terrific read and a must for all Baum fans!