“Kansas isn’t the state of Kansas. Kansas is just the place you’re stuck in, wherever that might be.”
Growing up, I always loved the movie Wizard of Oz. I love Dorothy’s dress, her little dog Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion and the way the entire story came together. I actually had no idea that the movie was originally based off a book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L Frank Baum. I, now, know that the beginning of the movie depicts his name in the opening credits, but when you are 10 years old you pay more attention to the movie than you do the credits.
Finding Dorothy is told through the eyes of Maud, the tenacious wife of Frank Baum. It tells the story of how Frank came to write The Wonderful Wizard of Oz but it doesn’t merely begin with him writing the story, it goes back to when Frank and Maud first met and the story first got started. The book flips back and forth between the time periods as Frank and Maud struggle to make ends meet for their family and then to the Hollywood set of the Wizard of Oz as Maud fights to protect the story that her late-husband wrote thirty years prior. Mixed within the pages are pieces of history that I would never have known had it not been for this book. Not only are there pieces of history in this book but there are real-life characters who played a part in the making of the movie (hint, hint Judy Garland).
While I do have to admit that this book did start slower than I was prepared for but, in reality, it was because it began in a time period (the 1880s) that I am completely unfamiliar with. I love Historical Fiction but I have never ventured that far back into history and everything just appeared to be vastly different from the world that I know now. Once Finding Dorothy took hold of my heart, I couldn’t put the story down. I loved the charisma of Maud. Even when it seemed like the world was stacked against her and her husband, she still managed to hold her head high and keep moving forward. The author, Elizabeth Letts, took such care in her research and presentation of Maud that I felt connected to her character through the entirety of the story. Maud was truly ahead of her time and I think everyone could learn a little from her.
I especially loved how the book intertwined so much history but also made it entertaining. I had to resist, on multiple occasions, the urge to look of the historical accuracy of events that transpired within the pages of Finding Dorothy. I didn’t want to let myself ruin anything so I decided to hold off until I was finished with the book. I’m so glad that I didn’t ruin anything! Elizabeth Letts wrote a captivating ‘Afterword’ that put the entire book into perspective and cited numerous sources that she gathered information from; she truly put her heart and soul into making Finding Dorothy a reflection of the lives that put it together.
I do think that the most important lesson I learned from this book is that life can throw some pretty nasty curves your way. Throughout life you will experience insurmountable heartbreak, disappointment, frustration, pure happiness, indescribable loss, true love and see the unfairness of the world around you; despite all of these things, it is important to never lose the magic. It is the magic that makes up for all of the hard times we will face in life and it is the magic that continues to propel us forward in reaching our dreams.
“Magic isn’t things materializing out of nowhere. Magic is when a lot of people all believe in the same thing at the same time, and somehow we all escape ourselves a little bit and we meet up somewhere, and just for a moment, we taste the sublime.”
Since finishing Finding Dorothy, I have gained a grander appreciation for what the movie was about. If you haven’t already read this book (or have it on your reading list), I highly encourage you to go pick it up and begin reading. It was wonderful!
Thank you to Elizabeth Letts for writing such an entertaining and captivating glimpse into the history of an iconic book and film.