Finding Dorothy

A Novel
Length: 13 hrs and 58 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (391 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

“A breathtaking read that will transport you over the rainbow and into the heart of one of America’s most enduring fairy tales.” (Lisa Wingate, author of Before We Were Yours)

Hollywood, 1938: As soon as she learns that M-G-M is adapting her late husband’s masterpiece for the screen, 77-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 best-selling 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 pause-resister. 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

“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...that same emotion we have all felt sometime over the last 80 years while listening to ‘Over the Rainbow.’” (BookPage, starred review) 

©2019 Elizabeth Letts (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“A breathtaking read that will transport you over the rainbow and into the heart of one of America’s most enduring fairy tales and the hardscrabble life that inspired it. Gripping, fascinating, Finding Dorothy is a novel for anyone who ever stared in awe as Oz came to life onscreen, and wondered what other secrets lay hidden behind the curtain. A dream of a book you’ll want to savor and share!” (Lisa Wingate, author of Before We Were Yours)

“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)  

“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, author of Lilac Girls)

“Old Hollywood is its own kind of Oz in 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, author of Love and Ruin

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Simple

Great story but written at young readers level. The reader read in a childish manner that was difficult to listen to. Loved learning about Baum’s life and inspiration for Oz

6 people found this helpful

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What an amazing story!

A beautifully told story of something that is iconic in the experience of Americans. The Wizard of Oz is one of the most viewed movies of all time. Elizabeth Letts has crafted a thoroughly engaging novel based on exhaustive research. Even the author’s afterward is captivating in illuminating the backstory of this movie and of the man who wrote the original book, L. Frank Baum.

I loved every minute of this audiobook.

2 people found this helpful

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A great story you didn’t know you needed to hear!

I was pulled right into this Audiobook version of the novel by both the reader’s voice as well as the story. If you are a fan of the book(s) by L. Frank Baum or the movie The Wizard of Oz based on his first book, your curiosity will most likely be peaked straight away.
Told from the perspective of the authors wife, Maude, the Hollywood scenes initially reminded me of “Saving Mr. Banks” (the Disney movie about PL Travers, the nasty author of the Mary Poppins, & how difficult she was to work with to get film/ creative rights to the book). Luckily Maude is more tolerable and likable and she didn’t have creative control so it wasn’t nearly as complicated or contentious as with Travers.
I was captivated and lost myself in the world Maude grew up in & then in the life she and Frank created together, and her senior years. It was fascinating to see how many things from the Baum’s lives were incorporated into the land of Oz. What an excellent historical fiction piece!

With strong female characters in a time of Suffragettes to backstage Hollywood gossip and chats with Judy Garland, I found myself enthralled and wondering just how much was true. Turns out a great deal! As explained in the Afterword of the book this author clearly did her research & but had to use editing liberties to streamline the story for the purposes of this book. She explains what little was left out and differentiates historical facts from gossip & skipped over info. It was very helpful to hear about her research and writing process after completing the novel.
It’s just great! There were some slow parts here and there but overall it was a captivating novel. 4.5 Stars

1 person found this helpful

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Sweet story, even if you don't love Wizard of Oz

I'm not a huge fan of Wizard of Oz, so I started the book reluctantly, since my book club is reading it. While I found it a little slow in the beginning - likely because I didn't really want to read it - I found myself unable to stop listening. I loved the strong female characters in the book. I loved the optimism and the love story between Frank and Maude. Kind of made me want to watch Wizard of Oz again.

1 person found this helpful

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Storytelling at it's best

Fascinating story that kept me enthralled. Narrator did a wonderful job telling this story of love, devotion and the secrets behind the writing of The Wonderful Wizard of OZ. The story is smooth and interesting. I truly recommend for you will learn a lot.

1 person found this helpful

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Must read for all Oz fans!

Great work of historical fiction! Bits of movie woven into Baum's pre-book life. Truly remarkable!!

1 person found this helpful

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10 out of 10

perfect on every level. I grew up in tornado alley in Missouri. How very true.

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I was sitting it my dad again

As I listened to this beautiful book I was once again sitting beside my dad. Gone from this earth for 39 years now this book brought to life the movie we watched together every year. The author tells a magical tale sometimes tragic, sometimes laughable, and always honest story of the author of OZ and his family. My favorite genre is historical fiction yet this author has a special gift of bringing it close to your heart. A beautiful love story entwines through out which gives us all hope for our own Somewhere over a Rainbow.

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I loved this book!

I loved the backstory on the Wizard of Oz, Frank, Maude& Dorothy. well written & the narrator was awesome. great book.

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Amazing!

I’m a huge Judy Garland and Wizard of Oz fan and I absolutely loved this book! I found myself wanting more. I enjoyed how Letts went from the story of Maud & Frank to the dazzle of the studio system with Judy. I truly enjoyed learning more about the Baum’s and Maud’s amazing mother. She painted a picture I could see. Lee narrated this with personality and I could feel and see the characters more vividly. On my walk I was on the final chapter and I was crying. Not just crying but sobbing. I laughed at myself but I truly I loved it!!!!! I highly recommend this to anyone!