A Publisher’s Weekly and Los Angeles Times Bestseller!
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 Baum’s intrepid wife, Maud.
Hollywood, 1938: As soon as she learns that M-G-M is adapting her late husband’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 Frank’s passing, Maud is the only person who can help the producers stay true to the spirit of the book—because she’s the only one left who knows its secrets.
But the moment she hears Judy Garland rehearsing the first notes of “Over the Rainbow,” Maud recognizes the yearning that defined her own life story, from her youth as a suffragette’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 her—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 Letts’s journey into the amazing lives of Frank and Maud Baum. Written as fiction but based closely on the truth, Elizabeth Letts’s new book tells a story of love, loss, inspiration, and perseverance, set in America’s heartland.
Praise for Finding Dorothy
March 2019 Midwest Connections Pick
February 2019 Library Reads Pick
“In examining the meeting between Judy Garland and Maud Baum, Letts weaves two narratives: Hollywood in 1938-39, and Baum’s childhood and marriage to L. Frank Baum, author of the book that inspired the movie. A fascinating behind-the-scenes story for Oz fans.”
Lauren McLaughlin, Wilton Library Association, Wilton, CT
“As with all great historical fiction, the allure of “Finding Dorothy” is the curiosity it inspires. Readers will find themselves wanting to know more, wondering what is fact and what isLetts’s imagination. In this case, Letts has brought an unknown woman to life in an engaging and thorough novel.”New York Times
“In some ways reminiscent of Jerry Stahl’s excellent I, Fatty, Letts’ Finding Dorothy combines exhaustive research with expansive imagination, blending history and speculation into a seamless tapestry. . . . It’s a testament to Letts’ 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 ‘Over the Rainbow.’”Bookpage (starred review)
“Letts expertly illuminates the true story behind the tale beloved by so many readers through history, but best of all is the wonderful depiction of Maud herself. This is a crowd-pleasing, thoroughly satisfying novel.”Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“A breathtaking read that will transport you over the rainbow, into the heart of one of America’s most enduring fairy tales and the hardscrabble life that inspired it. Gripping, fascinating, this is a novel for anyone who ever stared in awe as OZ came to life on screen, and wondered what other secrets lay hidden behind the curtain? A dream of a book you’ll want to savor and share!”Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours
“Old Hollywood is its own kind of Oz in Elizabeth Letts’ Finding Dorothy, complete with false dazzle and complex combinations of threat and allure. But what really satisfies here is the unlikely friendship between L. Frank Baum’s unsinkable widow, Maud, and the young Judy Garland, on the vulnerable cusp of fame. It’s an alliance that seems touched with magic and serendipity and something even more transformative, true understanding between women.”Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of Love and Ruin and The Paris Wife
“Beautifully researched and written, Finding Dorothy pulls back the curtain on a fascinating relationship behind the making of The Wizard of Oz.”Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls
“A woman with a heart, a brain, courage to spare, and a girl’s sense of wonder—this is the heroine of Elizabeth Letts’s sparkling, touching novel. Maud Baum is the daughter of a suffragette and the wife of a dreamer, but she is also a force to be reckoned with in her own right.”Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue
“Readers looking for an inspiring true story will be delighted. . . . [Letts] again crafts a tale of fortitude and triumph over adversity. . . . Fans of the Oz novels or film will be enchanted. This is a great fit for readers of Christina Baker Kline and Lisa Wingate, and will surely be a popular choice for book clubs. . . . [A] well-researched novelization.”Library Journal
“Maud [Gage Baum] is a fascinating character, and this is a poignant, absorbing tale of the life and love story that led to the creation of a beloved classic.”Booklist
“Historical fiction fans will rejoice as bestselling non-fiction author Elizabeth Letts turns her formidable talents to the novel in Finding Dorothy, the story of Maud, wife of The Wizard of Oz author Frank Baum. With meticulous research and vivid detail, Letts explores both Maud’s life story leading up to the writing of The Wizard of Oz, and Maud’s determination to see that the film remained true to her husband’s vision as it was made in 1930’s Hollywood. Letts takes readers on an unflinching journey between hardship and hope, with a catch-your-breath ending too magical to be anything but true. Fans of The Wizard of Oz book, the movie, Judy Garland and the Golden Age of Hollywood will thank Letts for taking them over the rainbow all over again.”Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale
“Elizabeth Letts’ return to fiction showcases both her versatility and her virtuosity. Finding Dorothy is a magical delight from cover to cover! More than just a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Wizard of Oz, it’s a heartfelt look at the origins of a beloved story told through the eyes of the woman closest to its creator. From capturing the pioneering spirit of a family settling out West, to the fight for women’s suffrage, and the vulnerability of a young Judy Garland on the threshold of stardom, Finding Dorothy is filled with pitch perfect wonderment.”Renee Rosen, author of White Collar Girl
“A well-researched, Technicolor delight. I’ve loved The Wizard of Oz, the book and the movie, since I was a little girl, and this novel feels like an exclusive backstage pass to both. Who was the real Dorothy? Where was the Emerald City? What was it like to be with Judy Garland on the MGM set? But more importantly, Finding Dorothy introduces us to Maud Gage Baum, a steadfast, compassionate woman who left her mark on her husband’s book and the film that would immortalize it.”Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child and To the Bright Edge of the World