Elizabeth Letts tells readers that her interest in The Wizard of Oz began in 1965 when she was four. She explains that she thought “the character of Dorothy belonged just to me…. I figured out instinctively that Dorothy was the kind of little girl I wanted to be—one who could stare down a lion, melt a witch, tame a wizard.”
As an adult reading The Wizard of Oz to her own son, Letts thought about L. Frank Baum, the author and wondered about his story. That curiosity led Letts to look at Maud Gage Baum, a strong person in her own right. Maud’s mother, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was a famous suffragette. She fought not only for women’s rights, but also for Native American rights. She raised Maud to think for herself and be independent. Maud even went to a boys’ school and had begun college at Cornell, shortly after women had been admitted. At Cornell, Maud’s roommate was Josie Baum who introduced Maud to L. Frank Baum, Josie’s cousin.
Discover more about Elizabeth Letts and her books at this link: http://www.elizabethletts.com/.
Finding Dorothy consists of alternating stories. When the book opens, readers discover Maud Gage Baum, a widow of twenty years, trying to get into the studio where The Wizard of Oz movie is being made. She feels determined to make sure that Louis B. Mayer stays true to the book written by L. Frank Baum, Maud’s late husband. Then Maud reflects on her own early life and her meeting with Frank Baum. Thus, the book continues with alternating the current story with the past.
Matilda Joslyn Gage taught Maude to be forthright and in charge of her own life. Maud tries to fulfill her mother’s dream of graduating from college. When Frank asks Maud to marry him, she tells him she needs to finish college first to make her mother happy. Frank’s response is to ask Maud if she shares her mother’s dream Maud realizes she does not.
Below, see a picture of Frank and Maud on a trip to Egypt. The second picture is of Maud’s mother, Matilda Joslyn Gage.
Maud and Frank marry and immediately move around as Frank’s theater company takes them from place to place. Over the years of their marriage, Frank tries a number of occupations only to succeed for a time before some setback occurs, often not of his own making, but enough trouble to cause Frank to seek other employment.
Finally, Maud gains admission to the studio and meets writers, the producer, and Judy Garland herself. Maud explains to any and all that she would like to contribute to the success of the movie by helping stay true to the book.
Letts has recreated the magic of Baum’s storytelling as she recounts Maud’s life with Frank and then Maud’s determination to keep his legacy alive and thriving. Maud also hopes to protect the young Judy Garland as she watches the adults around Judy abusing her by not allowing her to eat properly and by forcing diet pills on her. The idea is to keep Judy from growing and filling out before the movie is finished.
Finding Dorothy provides an engaging historical novel. Letts did her research and includes historical facts and imagines the dialog that could have taken place in the past and during the making of the film. Finding Dorothy is definitely worth a reader’s time.