Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

Why “Finding Dorothy” & The Land of Aahs Are ‘Forever Young’

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You know that Good Book Feeling? Where you close the final page of a Really Great Read and sigh? Wish that it’d never end? Or maybe you just go, “aaah”?

Elizabeth Letts’ Finding Dorothy is that kind of book.

Sheer Genius

We turned Finding Dorothy’s last page and sighed. Because this book, like its protagonists, L. Frank Baum and his remarkable wife, Maud, is sheer genius.

Told through the eyes of L. Frank Baum’s indomitable wife, Maud, Finding Dorothy is the story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the beloved book that inspired the movie classic.

Finding Dorothy is also a love story. It traces the intertwined lives of Maud, daughter of a suffragette leader and a “force of nature” in her own right, and Maud’s husband, creative genius and author L. (Lyman) Frank Baum. The two were devoted to each other until the end of their days.

Basic Plot

When 77 year old Maud Baum learns that MGM is adapting her late husband’s magnum opus for the silver screen, Maud knows she’s the only person who can make sure the producers stay true to the spirit of the book – because she’s the only person who knows its secrets.

“… of all the roles she (Maud) had played in her life – tomboy, student, wife, mother, widow, and steward of Frank’s legacy – the most important of these had been mother…” – Finding Dorothy

While Maud scrambles to make her case to the studio brass, she soon discovers a remarkably talented and equally vulnerable teenager who’s cast to play Dorothy Gale. Something about Judy Garland reminds Maud of a young girl Maud cared for and tried to help in Dakota. The girl was “a dreamer who never got a happy ending.” With Judy under enormous pressure from the studio to ensure Oz is a smash hit, Maud resolves to protect Judy the way she tried to protect the real Dorothy.

“I’m, frightened Auntie Em, I’m frightened!”

Forty Years

The plot covers some forty years, from 1880 Ithaca, New York to 1938-39 Hollywood, MGM Studios and Sound Stage 27. We follow Maud’s life from her student days at Cornell University to her blossoming romance with young Frank to the arduous years in the Dakota Territory, Chicago, and beyond.

All this and more inspired Frank’s beloved novel.

“Because Oz is hope, and children can find themselves in dark places.” – Finding Dorothy

Equal parts tough and tender, the narration provides fascinating, richly imagined glimpses into the back stories of Frank and Maud. Both leap off the page and into your heart as you’re immersed not only in the lush land of make believe and all things Oz, but also in the lives of the Baums:

  • Listening to a suffragette lecture on women’s rights.
  • Sweltering through a Dakota drought.  
  • Gazing at the jeweled Chicago skyline from atop a Ferris wheel.
  • Lunching with Judy Garland and puzzling over an old jacket.
  • Meeting surreptitiously with L.B. Mayer’s formidable secretary.
  • Watching a door open into a Technicolor land of enchantment where troubles melt like lemon drops…

Like Lemon Drops

It’s a rich, compelling read. I couldn’t put it down! In fact, reading Finding Dorothy, I fell in love with the original Oz book and the movie all over again (Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West still creeps me out). 

“Kansas isn’t the state of Kansas, Maud said. ‘Kansas’ is just the place you’re stuck in, wherever that may be.’” – Finding Dorothy

Final Word

A thoroughly captivating read, Finding Dorothy transports readers to a land of dreams, hopes, and aahs. Behind the moon, beyond the rain, it’s a land Forever Young. And a place where dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true.

Our Rating: 5.0

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