Cover Image: Finding Dorothy

Finding Dorothy

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Fascinating story about how the author of The Wizard of Oz went about Finding Dorothy interspersed with the making of the movie in 1938-39.

Maud Baum is the unifying character in the two strands of her life described in the book. It begins with a 77-year-old Maud attempting to get on the MGM lot to ensure that her long-dead husband’s book would be faithful carried to the silver screen. While the bright colors of Technicolor including the bright green of Oz were unfamiliar, Maud sees a vulnerability and talent in Judy Garland when she hears her singing “Over the Rainbow”. After proving her worth to the MGM honchos, Maud covertly takes Judy under her wing with the help of the studio head’s secretary.

In a parallel story, Maud at nineteen is one of the first woman at Cornell. Her mother, a famous suffragette, insists that she become an attorney. However, Maud only has eyes for handsome actor and small theater producer, Frank Baum. Once married, the couple are deeply in love but have ongoing financial problems. When Frank is convinced to publish the book he spends travel time on the train writing, the Wizard of Oz thrusts them both into the spotlight.

I enjoyed both parts of Maud’s story but perhaps the movie one slightly more. Finding Dorothy is an excellent look behind the scenes at the cost of both movie and literary stardom. 4 stars!

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Fans of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz will enjoy this dramatization of the life of Maude Baum (Gage), Frank's wife and advocate.
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I am a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz and in 2009 I read The Real Wizard of Oz by Rebecca  Loncraine, one of the books Letts used in her research so I was excited to read this historical fiction take on the creation of Oz. Overall, the story is interesting, but seems to lack emotion. There just wasn’t enough of a connection between Maud’s emotional connection to the Oz stories and her assumed passion to making sure the movie honored the book. As an avid reader and movie geek, I understand that need for an adaptation to be “just right,”, but it just didn’t show upon the page until too late.
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Such an original and interesting story, it will hook you from the first scene to the last.   Absolutely charming, the outlook on The Wizard of Oz you never knew you needed, but won't be able to put down once you start.
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Finding Dorothy is the story behind one of the most beloved books (and movies) of all time, The Wizard of Oz. The story is told through the voice of L. Frank Baum’s wife, Maud. 

Finding Dorothy covers the time that Maud and Frank live in South Dakota, barely making ends meet. It was during this time that the couple meets a real life Dorothy who inspired Frank to write the novel. The book also covers Maud’s early years as the daughter of a suffragette. 

When Maud later is introduced to Judy Garland, who would play the beloved Dorothy character in the movie, she describes how Garland’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow” takes her back to those tough days before the book’s big boom. 

Maud and Judy Garland connect despite their over sixty year age difference. Maud is a widow at the time of the making of the movie. 

Alternating between the past storyline of Maud’s life and Maud and Frank’s marriage, there is also the storyline in 1939 on the active film set of the movie. During these days, Judy is mistreated by those making the movie, as well as by her “stage” mother, and Maud does her best to protect her. 

Finding Dorothy feels well-researched and authentic. Fans of the book or movie will gobble this one up. The author is as passionate about the story as many of us are, and it shines through in her writing, especially in the afterword. If you are a Wizard of Oz fan, I think this one should definitely be on your TBR! 

I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
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***#earc thanks to #netgalley for a fair review***

     “... stare down a lion, melt a witch, tame 
     a wizard.”

I have to say, I’m a huge Elizabeth Letts fan. Her work is meticulously researched, comfortingly readable and excellent storytelling. Finding Dorothy is no exception!

     “Judy had done it. She captured the 
     magic Frank put into his story, sucked 
     it from the air and breathed it back out 
     through her vocal cords.”

Choosing Fiction as a medium adds a lovely Ozian element of whimsy to an otherwise stalwart character. Maud Baum may not be a name you‘ve heard, but after reading this book, she’ll be a woman you know. She is made of sterner iron than her more carefree husband L. Frank Baum. 

     “If started out in an ordinary place and   
     happened to an ordinary girl.”

There are many marvelous details about the wonders of Oz that you would have never imagined possible. 

In a land of Oooohs, Frank Baum saw a dream of Aaaahs, L.B. Meyer built that world in technicolor and Judy Garland breathed life into it. It is wizardry in its finest format, but as Maud says in the book, the magic isn’t but a collected belief in our hearts that anything is possible. Delightful!
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As a Kansas girl I grew up watching the Wizard of Oz but knew next to nothing about the man who created the world. 

This switches back and for between 1939 when the movie was being filmed and the late 1800s when Maud Gage is a girl. She is the woman who grows up and falls in love with L. Frank Baum. The flashbacks are from her perspective of their life together. 

I found this a well researched historical novel. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for allowing me to read and review this book.
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Maud, wife of Frank Baum the author of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" finds herself on the movie set of "The Wizard of Oz" and feels inclined to take the young Judy Garland under her wing. The story alternates between the 1939 movie set and the late 1800's and Maud's young life. As the story is told we begin to understand who Dorothy is and what she means to Maud and Frank as well as the meaning behind the popular book. 

I loved this unique historical fiction novel. This is more about Maud and her life growing up in the home of a women's rights activist and married to a creative and impulsive man than it is about "The Wizard of Oz" but if you are a fan of the movie this is a must read. It has made me want to go back and read Baum's book again. I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction or people who grew up watching the movie or reading the book. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the advanced reader's copy of "Finding Dorothy" in exchange for my honest review.
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I began reading Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts with low expectations and a bit of trepidation.  I had read the Oz books and watched the movie, and frankly, I did not want this book to shade those memories.  

I need not have worried.  This exceptionally well-written novel captured me from the first chapter which introduces us to Maud Gage Baum, the wife and widow of L. Frank Baum, who created Oz.  Moving seamlessly from the filming of the movie to the story of their marriage and family, it is a compelling love story of a marriage that succeeds despite obstacles, hardships, and strife. It also is a story of the making of a movie, whose success is entirely dependent on the teenaged Judy Garland. Above all, this is historical fiction at its best.  Letts gives us a clear picture of the expectations and limitations of women in the second half of the 19th century and the effort to gain the right to vote.  Maud’s mother was in the highest level of leadership in the suffrage movement. In 1938, as the movie is being made, Maud assumes the role of protector and mentor of the young star, who is manhandled and mistreated by almost every other person around her.  As the Baum family moves to the western frontier, we are privy to the harsh economic and environmental challenges they confront.

All of the characters are multi-faceted and richly drawn.  The dialogue rings with authenticity and the descriptions can make a reader feel the rain or shiver with the cold. Having created a complex tapestry, Letts goes one step further – she sprinkles a little magic dust that will add new dimension to those of us that love the world of Oz.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Ballantine Publishers and Goodreads for allowing me the opportunity to read an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Absolutely loved this book.. the Author did an incredible job in every aspect on this timeless tale...  I highly recommend this book it is worth the money and will be an added investment to your library for years to come
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I loved this book! I grew up watching The Wizard of Oz each year starting in the 1950s. I was so surprised to see how the producers change from black and white to color when Dorothy lands in Oz. Elizabeth Letts’ story  about Maud, the author Frank Baum’s widow. Twenty years after his death, she goes to MGM where they are filming the Wizard of Oz in 1938 and befriends Judy Garland. We are treated to flashbacks of Maud’s childhood and later her time with Frank. I laughed and cried while reading this wonderful book.Thank you NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This mesmerizing story brought me back into the world of Oz and thoughtful of the numerous times I watched this classic and yearned for a pair of those magic shoes. Written from the perspective of Frank Baum’s wife Maud, Elizabeth Letts artfully connects the dots between meticulous historical research and imagination. I was drawn in from the beginning and loved the smallest details and her respectful peek into the lives of this influential couple. There is also much to learn about Judy Garland and her tragic life. 

I have enjoyed numerous books told from the ‘woman behind the man’ perspective and this is among the best I’ve read. Maud is an inspiring woman who’s opinion often didn’t matter as her man’s accomplishments get plenty of public attention. I loved her spunk in the face of life’s challenges and highly recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction. Thanks to Random House Ballantine for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

*will post in additional online venues upon publication
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A historical fiction novel, Finding Dorothy tells the imagined story of L. Frank Baum’s widow, Maud, in the days when Hollywood has cast Judy Garland to star in her husband’s famous book: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The story begins in 1938 with Mrs. L. Frank Baum navigating her way through MGM’s studios to have an audience with the studio’s head, determined to make her case and act as a consultant on the film. Letts is no stranger to researching history for her books; The Eighty-Dollar Champion and The Perfect Horse were both New York Times bestselling nonfiction. While this is a work of fiction, much of the content is based on facts. Get ready for an exciting journey where you feel like you are best friends with Maud, where you get excited again (as well as protective) about the Land of Oz we know so fondly.
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For my mother's generation and mine, The Wizard of Oz was much more than just a story or simply a popular movie.  It was an intrinsic step in our lives,  a promise that it was alright to dream, and there was always a chance to make your dreams come true.  Mom read the stories to us girls, and we in turn read the Oz books to our children, and occasionally over the last 40 or so years we were able to watch the movie on late night television or even see it on the big screen at a special screening.  And ALWAYS there were tears, evoking memories and hopes and dreams both achieved and missed.  I had thought that little if anything could top the emotions my heart remembers when I hear Judy Garland sing 'Over the Rainbow'.  Elizabeth Letts managed to do just that.  I can't tell you how many times I had to set this book aside and pull memories out of the archives of my heart,  shed a tear or two, have a cup of tea, call a sister.  

This is a book you need to read, even those of you too young to have much memory banked in the land of Oz.  You will love Maud and Frank Baum, and seeing the life that goes into the making of the story, and the heartbeats that went into the filming of the original movie. And I hope there will come a time you will want to read The Wizard of Oz to your children. There are 14 other Oz stories by Frank Baum but they are much harder to find.  

I'm going to see if they have the 1939 movie on Netflix and if so, watch it again tonight.  And if you haven't seen the Broadway play "Wicked"  yet, do so. It can make you laugh until you cry.  

I received a free electronic copy of Finding Dorothy from Netgalley, Elizabeth Letts, and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.
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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a magical movie whose popularity hasn’t diminished since its debut in 1939.  Elizabeth Letts has written a novel that is just as charming as the movie.  It is obvious that the author of Finding Dorothy did extensive research before she began writing.  The result is a story that is historical in nature but interwoven with the author’s imagination, producing a novel that is entertaining, informative and well-crafted.

At the center of the story is Maud Baum, the widow of the author of The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum.  At the age of 77, Maud became involved in the creation of the now-famous movie.  Her own life story is interesting and inspiring in its own right.  But, her involvement in the movie is what sets this book apart.  This imaginative book tells the story behind the making of the iconic movie and, even though much of this is a product of the author’s imagination, it is very plausible and believable.  

As a result, Finding Dorothy is a fabulous read.  I highly recommend it anyone who is a fan of the movie and enjoys historical literature in general.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review.
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Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early January.

Maud Baum (such an immense strength of character) as holding the rights to her husband’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, then touring MGM studios as she options not the film rights to them, but her insight on the stories and information about her husband, Frank. While offering contention on the film's production not matching the book, Maud meets Judy Garland, who inspires feeling into the songs and convinces Maud of her ability to play Dorothy. She also finds that Judy is cloistered and closely influenced, a child yet a woman, struggling to be a star when she is already. Amid all this is the story of Maud’s hellion, tomboy youth, growing up to go to Cornell, encouraged by others to be more modest, including her roommate Josie Baum, whose cousin is Frank. Maud is quite taken with him, even if her family is reluctant to accept him and his prospects. There are peeks of characters that will be, the sheer will of women protecting their own and so much won and lost.
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Rating:   5 Glorious Yellow Brick Road Stars

Okay, I think that this is my favorite book so far in 2019.  It’s Historical Fiction which I normally really enjoy, and it features dual timeline stories.   We get to meet Maud Gage Baum at both the beginning and towards the end of her life.  Who knew that the wife of L. Frank Baum was so interesting?  Certainly not I before I read this book, but the author, Elizabeth Letts, captivated me with Maud.

The story starts with tomboy Maud’s growing up years in upstate New York.  Maud’s mother, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was one of the leading figures in the Suffragette movement.  ‘Aunt’ Susan B Anthony was a frequent presence in their home, and Matilda was always concentrating on writing new tracts and articles to help move the Suffragette movement forward.  Maud was one of the first females to go to Cornell University.   Oh I must stop.   This isn’t a book report!   I’m failing to capture things that make the book so special.

Here’s what I loved about the book.   I loved meeting Maud and watching her grow up.  She chose to marry the dreamer and travelling theater owner, Frank Baum.  She was certainly more patient with his wool-gathering ways than I probably would have been.  They travel throughout the country including a several year stop in South Dakota.  Along the way they have three boys, and sometimes it seems that Frank is just as much of a child as their kids.   As portrayed, he’s certainly always a child at heart.  They live hand-to-mouth until Frank writes down one of his stories which is published as ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’, and much to everyone’s surprise it becomes an instant sensation.   It’s soon followed by other books in the series, and the now successful Baum’s move to Southern California to enjoy their later years in a warmer climate.  

Now interleave Maud’s early story, with the Hollywood backstory of the filming of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in 1938-1939.   Maud wants to make sure that her late husband’s vision of Oz is portrayed correctly.   At 78 years-old she refuses to be overrun by the studio system that is intent on denying her access to the film set.  As she perseveres, she meets Judy Garland who is on the cusp of stardom, and who tries so hard to please everyone.   It’s Judy’s voice, and that ‘rainbow’ song that was written for the movie that capture Maud’s attention.   She works behinds the scenes to befriend Judy, and to get that special song included in the movie.  

This is just a delicious book.  Maud lived quite a life.  She saw so many changes in the world from her birth in 1861, to the premier of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in 1939.  As told by the author, Maud was a bit of a no nonsense lady who was not afraid to stand up, or speak up for what she believed in.  It was a treat to read about her own adventures which contributed to ‘Oz’, and to see how both the book, and the movie came to be.   Bravo!   I’m giving my standing ovation now.

‘Thank-You’ to NetGalley; the publisher, Ballantine Books; and the author, Elizabeth Letts; for providing a free e-ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This engrossing and heartwarming historical novel tells the story of Maud Baum, the wife of L. Frank Baum. The novel alternates between the filming of The Wizard of Oz in 1938 and Maud’s life leading up to her trip to Hollywood for the film. Maud, the daughter of a women’s suffragist attends Cornell in one of the first women’s classes. She meets Frank Baum through her roommate, a cousin of Franks. Maud is quickly swept off her feet, and despite her mother’s protests, she quits school to embark on a roller coaster life with the man she loves. Frank Baum brought the magical and imaginative into their lives and it was Maud who found herself trying to be the practical one. Now in 1938, the 77-year-old widow must travel to Hollywood to ensure the movie stays true to her husband’s ideals.

This is a delightful, poignant novel that tells the story and history behind this much-loved classic book as well as introducing the reader to Maud Baum herself. Fans of the Oz books or the movie (or fans of both) will delight in this depiction of how L. Frank Baum’s land of Oz came to be.
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“Don’t let anybody steal your marbles.”

Maud Gage Baum is one of a kind. The godchild of Susan B. Anthony, child of first-wave feminist Matilda Joslyn Gage and an indulgent, progressively inclined father, she is unhampered by many of the traditional expectations that shackled women born during the American Civil War. But though her parents encourage her to develop her mind and talents, they have little prepared her for the wider world that greets her, and when she arrives at the women’s dormitory at Cornell University, she is considered peculiar by her classmates. She is a lonely young woman, until her roommate sets her up with Frank, an eccentric, clever man whose whimsy equals her own. My great thanks go to Net Galley and Random House Ballantine for the galley, which I received free in exchange for this honest review. It will be available to the public tomorrow, February 12, just in time to be wrapped in red paper and given to the bookworm you adore.

Maud’s story comes to us from two different time periods, one of which starts in 1871 during her childhood and moves forward in linear fashion, and the other in 1939, when she comes to the set where The Wizard of Oz is being filmed to fulfill her beloved Frank’s dying wish; he has asked her to look after Dorothy.  And though it initially means gaining access to the studio through duplicitous means, Maude befriends the unhappy but massively talented Judy Garland, and advocates for the intention behind her character, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

I love this book hard. It has an unusual appeal, not a thriller nor a grab-you-by-the-hair page turner, but rather a strangely comforting novel, one that offers us the chance to follow Maud to another time and another place. I read several books at a time, and this one became my bribe to myself, the reward I could look forward to after completing increments of other books that I wouldn’t abandon, yet didn’t love as I did this one.

How many times have I reviewed a book favorably yet with the caveat that it isn’t bedtime reading, and maybe not good for mealtime either? Listen up. This one is good for both. It will make you appreciate your meal as you move through the hungry years of the Depression, and as you read about poor Judy being starved with lettuce and cottage cheese, her penalty for reaching puberty when the studio wanted her to look like a scrawny waif. And at bedtime, even the sorrowful passages are wonderfully hypnotic.

The love story between Maud and Frank is one for the ages, and without Letts, who would have guessed? Midway through the story I felt the need to know how closely the author kept to the truth, and I skipped to the notes at the end. I am delighted to say that this writer did a great deal of research, and she tells the reader specifically where and when she departs from historical fact for the sake of the story.  The way that the character of Dorothy is invented, based on a string of actual events from the Baums’ lives, is riveting, and in fact had the author not told us otherwise, I would have assumed that much of it was made up, because it’s almost too cool to be true.

Letts develops her characters subtly, with never a caricature or stereotype. Though her settings are well drawn, this is a character based book if ever I read one, and it must truly have been a labor of love. I’ve read a dozen books between this one and the present, yet this is the title that makes me smile.

This beautifully crafted story is bound to rank high among the year’s best historical novels. Sweet, soothing, and highly recommended.
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Very interesting telling of the way The Wizard of Oz movie may have come to being.  The relationship between Maud Baum and Dorothy, between Dorothy and the Directors/Producers is intriguing.   The character of Baum is well drawn.

Good story, interesting characters.  sac
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