Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
Elizabeth Letts is a writer of stories that portray strong women and children surviving unbearable circumstances. She has written five novels, and of those, I constantly recommend The Perfect Horse. It is one of the best books I have ever read. Her latest, Finding Dorothy, is also an outstanding addition to her pantheon of work.
Finding Dorothy is historical fiction and recounts the life of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Letts uses family diaries and material from the L. Frank Baum papers to create a story that best describes the early years of the writer and his family and the making of a classic.
Frank Baum was always a writer and loved to use his talent to weave tales to entertain his children and wife after long weeks on the road as a traveling salesman. Though his earlier days involved work in the (stage) theater, he found it difficult to maintain this profession during hard economic times, and support a growing family. His wife and sons provided him the solitude he craved after being on the road, but a story was always on his mind and provided him with fodder as a salesman. He was a thorough reader and at one time owned a newspaper where his editorials about the future could come across crass.
It was difficult for Frank to stifle his creative side, and limited income his career provided made things hard on the family. Like his mother-in-law, the famous Matilda Joslyn Gage, who wrote books and articles regarding women’s rights, Frank was fascinated with theosophy. (Which part of any number of philosophies maintaining that a knowledge of God may be achieved through spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition, or special individual relations.)
Fortunately, for Frank, he married Matilda’s youngest, Maud, whose resoluteness provided a strong balance for the family. Maud had grown believing women were equal to men; thanks to her mother, whose thinking was far ahead of her generation. There were hard times in the Baum household that only Maud’s firm s beliefs and personal strength got them through the ashy darkness.
It was often up to Maud to bring Frank back to earth, and remind him where his obligations lay in caring for his family. It would be years before Frank would write his classic, but its publication served as the family’s turning point and put hard times behind them. L. Frank Baum would die before his greatest work would find the big screen.
Once in the hands of Hollywood, Finding Dorothy continues a story seldom, if ever told. How Maud Baum, used her sturdiness to keep her husband’s literary vision on track as she tirelessly worked to ensure the film The Wonderful Wizard of Oz portrayed the magic of the novel. How she pressured the studio not to cut corners and produce a film that accurately depicted a child working not to lose hope as she tried to escape a world of her own imagining. Maud would remind everyone that Dorothy’s story was much like own her families, a tale of never losing hope even when times were desperate.
Elizabeth Letts tale is a wonderful story and I hope you enjoy it. Happy Reading!