Wednesday, March 6, 2019

FINDING DOROTHY by Elizabeth Letts

Somewhere over the rainbow…” In the novel FINDING DOROTHY by Elizabeth Letts, the Rainbow song plays a significant role, as it does in the film The Wizard of Oz. But the song doesn't have the yearning significance that the filmmakers first imagined until the widow of L. Frank Baum (Maud Gage Baum) shows up on set to make a correction in company of a dismissive Louis B. Mayer, in control of Judy Garland. The song "Over the Rainbow" goes on to be chosen as the greatest ever written in the 20th Century, as chosen by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment of the Arts, while the film became one of the most viewed of all time. The backstory is vast, and largely unknown by fans of the movie. Believed to be based on Baum's vision of Aberdeen in the Dakotas, and his sister Julia's hard homestead life there in 1884, The Wizard of Oz has a history that, in this novel based on fact, is both fascinating and riveting from beginning to end. Narrator Ann Marie Lee deserves accolades for bringing it all to life as an "audio movie" too. Starting with the Mayer scenes, we are whisked on a tornado of twisting plot back in time to when Baum's husband was alive, and imagination then takes flight in ways The Wiz (starring Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow) never imagined. (Aberdeen is now home to Northern State University, established a year after “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was published, in 1901. Golfer Payne Stewart died in a plane crash in Aberdeen. Many more Oz books followed for Baum, from “The Marvelous Land of Oz” to “The Tin Woodman of Oz,” even “Sky Island” shows Dorothy riding an umbrella like Mary Poppins.) Finding Dorothy is a delight. Audie Awards? Think Oscars too. Surely one of the best books and audiobooks of the year. Interview with the author HERE. Ebook HERE. —J. Lowe

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