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Finding Dorothy: A Novel
by Elizabeth Letts

Published: 2019-02-12
Hardcover : 368 pages
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This richly imagined novel tells the story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the book that inspired the iconic film, through the eyes of author L. Frank Baumâ??s intrepid wife, Maud.

â??A breathtaking read that will transport you over the rainbow and into the heart of one of ...
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This richly imagined novel tells the story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the book that inspired the iconic film, through the eyes of author L. Frank Baumâ??s intrepid wife, Maud.

â??A breathtaking read that will transport you over the rainbow and into the heart of one of Americaâ??s most enduring fairy tales.â?â??Lisa Wingate, author of Before We Were Yours

Hollywood, 1938: As soon as she learns that M-G-M is adapting her late husbandâ??s masterpiece for the screen, seventy-seven-year-old Maud Gage Baum sets about trying to finagle her way onto the set. Nineteen years after Frankâ??s passing, Maud is the only person who can help the producers stay true to the spirit of the bookâ??because sheâ??s the only one left who knows its secrets.

But the moment she hears Judy Garland rehearsing the first notes of â??Over the Rainbow,â? Maud recognizes the yearning that defined her own life story, from her youth as a suffragetteâ??s daughter to her coming of age as one of the first women in the Ivy League, from her blossoming romance with Frank to the hardscrabble prairie years that inspired The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Judy reminds Maud of a young girl she cared for and tried to help in South Dakota, a dreamer who never got her happy ending. Now, with the young actress under pressure from the studio as well as her ambitious stage mother, Maud resolves to protect herâ??the way she tried so hard to protect the real Dorothy.

The author of two New York Times bestselling nonfiction books, The Eighty-Dollar Champion and The Perfect Horse, Elizabeth Letts is a master at discovering and researching a rich historical story and transforming it into a page-turner. Finding Dorothy is the result of Lettsâ??s journey into the amazing lives of Frank and Maud Baum. Written as fiction but based closely on the truth, Elizabeth Lettsâ??s new book tells a story of love, loss, inspiration, and perseverance, set in Americaâ??s heartland.

Praise for Finding Dorothy

â??In some ways reminiscent of Jerry Stahlâ??s excellent I, Fatty, Lettsâ?? Finding Dorothy combines exhaustive research with expansive imagination, blending history and speculation into a seamless tapestry. . . . Itâ??s a testament to Lettsâ?? skill that she can capture on the page, without benefit of audio, that same emotion we have all felt sometime over the last 80 years while listening to â??Over the Rainbow.â??â?â??BookPage (starred review)

Editorial Review

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Discussion Questions


Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

1. Almost everyone remembers watching the iconic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. Share your special memories: Did you see it in a theater or on television? Did you watch it every year? What characters and scenes have remained with you? What frightened you the most? Did reading Finding Dorothy make you want to watch the film again?

2. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." "Follow the Yellow Brick Road." "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." What is your favorite line from The Wizard of Oz?

3. Did you ever read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the book? Before reading Finding Dorothy, how much did you know about the author's life? Do you think it's surprising that the story is so much better known than its author? How often do you look up an author's biography to find out more about him or her?

4. In Finding Dorothy, we are introduced to Maud Gage Baum as an elderly widow, struggling to preserve her husband's legacy, and then flashback to meet Maud as a girl. Did young Maud grow into the kind of woman you expected her to be? Do you think it was harder for Maud, as an older woman, to make her voice heard? Do you think women of a certain age are sometimes over-looked or marginalized? Do you think it has improved for women or stayed about the same as it was in Maud's day?

5. Maud's forward-thinking mother, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was considered radical by society, and even by her opinionated peers. Do you think it helped or hurt Maud to have such a famous and strong-minded woman as her mother? Were you surprised that Maud left college after her mother fought so hard to get her admitted? How do you think Matilda viewed Maud's decision? Do you think Maud did the right thing? Were you ever in a position where you had to choose between love and education or career?

6. In Finding Dorothy, the author reveals the origins of some of L. Frank Baum's ideas for The Wizard of Oz. Which was your favorite? What surprised you the most?

7. Frank and Maud had four boys, but they never had a daughter. Why do you think Frank's most famous character is a little girl? After reading Finding Dorothy, who do you think was his inspiration for the character of Dorothy? To what extent do you think authors base their stories on their own lives? How would you feel if a close friend or family member wrote a book? Would you worry (or be pleased) that you might recognize yourself in it?

8. Judy Garland suffered abuse at the hands of the studio executives at MGM and struggled throughout her life with addiction until her early death at age forty-seven. What is it about Judy Garland that makes so many people relate to her and gives her such enduring fame? Do you think child actors have it better today, or do you think that overwhelming fame is antithetical to a happy childhood? Was there anything else Maud could have done to help Judy? Considering the #MeToo movement, has the situation improved for young women?

9. Maud's sister Julia refused to give up her daughter Magdalena, even though Frank and Maud were offering the girl a better life. How do you feel about that? Do you think Frank and Maud did the right thing to leave her with her mother? Did Julia do right to keep her daughter on the homestead? And what about today? Should a mother always keep her child, even if her circumstances are not good, when a better home is available? Which is more important, the welfare of the mother or the child?

10. Frank and Maud were a prime example of the adage "opposites attract." Frank was a dreamer who always believed in a better future; Maud was pragmatic and sensible, a master at keeping the family running. What was it like for Maud to be married to such a man? Were you surprised that she was so loyal to him? If Frank and Maud were a couple in the twenty-first century, how do you think their relationship might be different? Or would it be the same?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

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by Jill S. (see profile) 06/29/24

by Susan W. (see profile) 04/10/24

I really enjoyed Finding Dorothy. My oldest daughter was a Wizard of Oz fanatic growing up so reading such a different side to it was so Intriguing to me. I must have seen the move a quadrillion times... (read more)

by Karen C. (see profile) 10/27/23

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