Reading guide for Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

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Finding Dorothy

by Elizabeth Letts

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts X
Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2019, 368 pages

    Dec 2019, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. Almost everyone remembers watching the iconic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. Share your special memories: Did you see it in a theater or on television? Did you watch it every year? What characters and scenes have remained with you? What frightened you the most? Did reading Finding Dorothy make you want to watch the film again?
  2. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." "Follow the Yellow Brick Road." "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." What is your favorite line from The Wizard of Oz?
  3. Did you ever read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the book? Before reading Finding Dorothy, how much did you know about the author's life? Do you think it's surprising that the story is so much better known than its author? How often do you look up an author's biography to find out more about him or her?
  4. In Finding Dorothy, we are introduced to Maud Gage Baum as an elderly widow, struggling to preserve her husband's legacy, and then flashback to meet Maud as a girl. Did young Maud grow into the kind of woman you expected her to be? Do you think it was harder for Maud, as an older woman, to make her voice heard? Do you think women of a certain age are sometimes over-looked or marginalized? Do you think it has improved for women or stayed about the same as it was in Maud's day?
  5. Maud's forward-thinking mother, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was considered radical by society, and even by her opinionated peers. Do you think it helped or hurt Maud to have such a famous and strong-minded woman as her mother? Were you surprised that Maud left college after her mother fought so hard to get her admitted? How do you think Matilda viewed Maud's decision? Do you think Maud did the right thing? Were you ever in a position where you had to choose between love and education or career?
  6. In Finding Dorothy, the author reveals the origins of some of L. Frank Baum's ideas for The Wizard of Oz. Which was your favorite? What surprised you the most?
  7. Frank and Maud had four boys, but they never had a daughter. Why do you think Frank's most famous character is a little girl? After reading Finding Dorothy, who do you think was his inspiration for the character of Dorothy? To what extent do you think authors base their stories on their own lives? How would you feel if a close friend or family member wrote a book? Would you worry (or be pleased) that you might recognize yourself in it?
  8. Judy Garland suffered abuse at the hands of the studio executives at MGM and struggled throughout her life with addiction until her early death at age forty-seven. What is it about Judy Garland that makes so many people relate to her and gives her such enduring fame? Do you think child actors have it better today, or do you think that overwhelming fame is antithetical to a happy childhood? Was there anything else Maud could have done to help Judy? Considering the #MeToo movement, has the situation improved for young women?
  9. Maud's sister Julia refused to give up her daughter Magdalena, even though Frank and Maud were offering the girl a better life. How do you feel about that? Do you think Frank and Maud did the right thing to leave her with her mother? Did Julia do right to keep her daughter on the homestead? And what about today? Should a mother always keep her child, even if her circumstances are not good, when a better home is available? Which is more important, the welfare of the mother or the child?
  10. Frank and Maud were a prime example of the adage "opposites attract." Frank was a dreamer who always believed in a better future; Maud was pragmatic and sensible, a master at keeping the family running. What was it like for Maud to be married to such a man? Were you surprised that she was so loyal to him? If Frank and Maud were a couple in the twenty-first century, how do you think their relationship might be different? Or would it be the same?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ballantine Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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