Magical Realism for Non-Believers: A Memoir of Finding Family by Anika Fajardo

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Not quite foreign, not quite domestic.

There is something about the above line that beautifully expresses the assumptions made about mixed race children, particularly when it wasn’t as common in our author’s youth as it is today. Skin color, ethnic features tend to be used as a map for other people to ‘tell your story’, which more often than not is wrong. Then there are expectations we cling to ourselves, as Anika Fajardo wanted to embrace her Colombian side and finally get to know the father, Renzo, who had been absent from her life for over two decades. Anika wanted to love and relate to the things a Colombian should, like authors and spicy foods. Of course, we all fall under the spell of  stereotypes for ourselves and others.  A man of secrets, and yet welcoming her as if they saw each other everyday, he greets her at the airport. The point of her existence begins first with the love story between her mother Nancy and her Colombian father Renzo. Once his student, Nancy fell in passionate love with the charming artist, having come to Colombia for a semester of college abroad in 1970 at the age of Nineteen. Eventually, when marriage came and baby made three, the romance wore thin faced with the harsh realties of  financial difficulties, isolation, lonely nights for Nancy while rumors of Renzo and other women were impossible to ignore. Her job teaching wasn’t much better, how does one end things when love is dead? Nancy made a life altering choice, one that solidified the future for their daughter Anika, who though born in Colombia would be raised in Minnesota, America.

A new family takes shape, a family made of two, mother and daughter. Through the years there are step siblings that come and go, but nothing that sticks. It always goes back to just the two of them. That her whole family is split, divided between Colombia and Minnesota, a family she will not meet until she is 21 seems more fantasy through her childhood, her mother never quite denying her access to her father but not encouraging it either. Her father is letters, her father is a phantom. It wasn’t always for selfish reasons her mother chose to steal her away to America, there were health problems, dangers in Colombia that could be the difference between life or death. Naturally, Anika spends much of her time wondering how different a person she would have become had she and her mother remained. Culture molds us like nothing else! Much like immigrants, there is always a divide in people who are torn between two cultures, as she states “not quite foreign, not quite domestic.” 

Her visit to Colombia gives her missing pieces to the puzzle of her parents early relationship and her own father’s life after. There is love, but to him she was always that baby whom he last held, not the full-grown young woman who stands before him. She is like a ghost, looking so much like her mother’s twin. Too, she explores the things that drove her mother to make such a life altering decision for them all, simply by visiting the places her mother once lived. Colombia is as much a mysterious family member as her father, sticking out like a sore thumb when she first arrives, covered up where women dress far more provocatively (by American standards anyway) confidently comfortable as sexual beings, fully at home in their bodies, she can feel her artlessness like a sore tooth. Tasting the sweetness of ‘unfamiliar fruit’, vigilant of the possibility of intruders, aware of the threat of drug cartels while in the back of her mind, her hunger to meet her father far surpasses the fact that Colombia at the time of her visit was ‘one of the most dangerous countries on the earth.’  With the presence of his wife Ceci, who is kind enough, there are two strangers for her to get to know. Renzo and Anika do share a few memories, one story in particular she tells him that he too remembers, one she hadn’t even realized he was a part of. Memory is slippery but so much harder to fully recall are the earliest ones. Reunions aren’t always full of deep meaningful conversations, intimacy takes time, they share DNA but they are still strangers. Her father talks a lot, but ‘says nothing.’   Seeing his moods, and understanding her mother’s ways solidifies for Nancy why they fell apart, and how it never would have been a harmonious home. Even five years after her visit to Colombia, there remains more to her family story, big things that were kept from her that Renzo delivers in the form of his “enigmatic emails’.  At first, it may be more than she wanted to know. Her father, that man whom could cause women to swoon with his ‘disarming charm’ is both ‘overly emotional and fiercely cut off’, the master of his own story and Anika’s because there are more chapters, untold surprises.

There is death, danger, cultural shock, love, loss, secrets and a growing family. It is about desperately wanting to know your roots, to find the missing pieces of yourself and to finally meet a parent who is like a phantom limb. It is the odd coincidences of paraellel lives, the strange experience of coming to love strangers who are your blood, the peculiar curiosity of what ifs, the wonderment that another you could have easily come to fruition had life taken different turns.

Publication Date: April 16, 2019

University of Minnesota Press

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The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green by Erica Boyce

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‘The farm is beautiful at this hour, before the fog has lifted and you start remembering the ways it has betrayed you.’

The small town of Munsen, Vermont is in trouble, a land full of collapsing barns and dead fields await Daniel Green who has been requested by a farmer named Sam. In a plan to bring publicity with his mysterious crop circles, Sam thinks it will be enough to get the ‘young folks’ to stick around, maybe create enough interest to bring outsiders in who will stay to help work the farms. At least, that’s his desperate wish! His plan is a ‘circlers dream’, how can Daniel resist? Daniel knows how to blend in and go unnoticed until he gets his job done, undercover.

Molly is Sam’s wife, struggling with old shame and fear for her husband, not always thrilled about the prospects and ideas Sam has for their farm, but ‘he has a way of sweeping you into his enthusiasm’, this is his biggest project yet. It’s not the struggling farm alone that she and Sam are facing, there are problems that can swallow them whole. Their son Charlie took off for the West ten years ago, bursting in his skin to be free of small town life and all its confines, to shed his father’s expectations, nay- demands. At odds with his father, not interested in farming, choosing a medical career instead, much more befitting his academic success and plans, he knows he doesn’t fit in. Sam sees his choice as a defection to the life he and Molly worked hard for, as if it isn’t ‘good enough’, but it’s a different truth about himself that Charlie believes is the real cause of their rift. Daughter Nessa is home again, wanting nothing more than to work the farm. She and Daniel draw close to one another and soon, both are revealing their pasts and deepest secrets, a relief after keeping hurts close to their hearts for too long. The very things we are shamed into hiding from the rest of the world.

Daniel has been a loner for quite some time now, healing from the wounds of a past relationship, he couldn’t have imagined just how much these strangers and their life struggles will come to mean to him. Nessa may be a bridge that guides him back to his own parents, simply for want of helping her. Is salvation possible? Or is it too late in the game? This is about more than crop circles or farms, it’s about family, love, marriage, illness, fear and hope. It’s how we alienate ourselves and each other simply because of our expectations. Sometimes we assume things about our own loved ones and how they relate to us, running with a fiction that could be wrong. It’s about changing direction and the possibility of staying in one place. These are imperfect people dealing with life altering circumstances. Sometimes the most alien thing is our own feelings.

Publication Date: April 2, 2019

Sourcebook Landmark

 

Roar: Thirty Stories One Roar by Cecelia Ahern

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Even when practically invisible, she was still fighting to be seen.

There is a  story a woman of any age can relate to in this collection, whether you feel like your age or situation is making you fade to nothing, or you’re struggling with time slipping through your fingers, your most precious moments are running away from you and all you want is to eat them up and live in them. A woman returns her husband, she just has no use for him anymore, ‘Paddy wasn’t defective, he wasn’t faulty’, she had just ‘grown out of love‘ but then what happens if he is put back up for sale?

What happens when a woman walks in her husband’s shoes? She learns that men carry themselves differently, not always walking through the world as freely as she imagined. They too have expectations due to their sex, as much as women, but the best part of the story is when she runs into another man, Bob, who has his own surprise. “Our world is the same but it’s not.” Another story is about a woman who, due to a birth defect, wears her heart on her sleeve. It gives her away, her emotional state, beating loudly when her face tries to mask her feelings.

The Woman Who Wore Pink is quite interesting, as Gender Police make sure you don’t overstep your identity as male or female. It’s a damning and frustrating exploration on gender roles, how dare a woman hold open a door, that’s a ‘man’s duty.’ This story in particular reminded me of something I could easily see in the show Black Mirror. There was an eerie feeling that washed over me, all of the ‘supposed to be’ of it. There is no doubt there are unspoken rules regarding gender roles in modern-day life, and maybe there aren’t gender police, and sure you don’t get penalized or fined for doing something considered masculine/feminine (for the most part), say the type of food you eat or the color you wear but there are ‘rules’ aren’t there? I think about how a boy wearing a pink shirt when I was a kid in school would have certainly been an invitation for bullying. It’s a color… a color! The author is saying a lot in this story, and it’s my favorite.

I can’t think of a woman who can’t identify with The Woman Who Spoke Woman. Women need a translator in order for the men ‘in power’ to understand them. The men in charge demand  women who are ‘man-speaking’ and don’t ‘harp on about women’s issues.’ Sound familiar ladies? The Woman Who Guarded Gonads is a loud message, how different the world would be if men had to fight women’s ‘opinions’ about choices regarding their bodies, as we are forced to do. It comes off as preposterous, doesn’t it, and yet it’s a reality for women. I wonder what a man’s take on this short story would be, I welcome their thoughts.

The collection is a fast read but has bite, and of course the stories are meant to engage the reader to question the culture we live in relating to gender issues. Women are so hard on themselves, but so is the world. There is surrealism, as in The Woman Who Unraveled, meant to invoke deeper meaning. Visibly unraveling would likely be easier, because then maybe others would notice and one could take the time they needed to ‘feel whole again.’ Of course, our struggles are invisible in the real world, and we keep a face on, truck along, usually at the detriment of ourselves, and others. It’s not lost on me that I am dealing with a health issue and in doing my research about other women who go through what I will be soon, confess they didn’t slow down enough, nor have support enough to recover from their surgery because of the load they carry as a mother/wife. Unraveling indeed, women don’t listen to their bodies enough, and what a sad world it is when they don’t have the support they need.

Yes, read it. It’s strange but the author is playing with very serious feminist issues, to make it easier to confront she engages the reader with magical realism.

Publication Date: April 16, 2019

Grand Central Publishing

 

Trust Exercise: A Novel by Susan Choi

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Their first day, Mr. Kingsley slid into the room like a knife- he had a noiseless and ambushing style of movement- and once they’d fallen silent, which was almost immediately, had cast a look on them that Sarah still saw in the back of her mind.

There isn’t a drama as electric as that between students of the Performing Arts, as is evident based on the characters in this novel. This is 1982, the students attending CAPA (Citywide Academy for the Performing Arts) are some of the most talented from all around, there to hone their acting skills under the tutelage of one Mr. Kingsley. Kingsley, a gay man with a husband, a lifestyle most of the class has never been exposed to. They immediately are in awe. The problem is Mr. Kingsley crosses the boundaries by meddling in their personal lives as much as their stage ones. The students all ‘longed to live up to his brilliance and equally feared that it couldn’t be done.’  The teens are not quite children but definitely not adults. Exercises meant to engage the senses beyond sight, plunging them into darkness is a catalyst for David and Sarah to begin a sexual relationship, but as one expects from people not quite mature enough to know how to corral the emotional aftermath, things sour. The coldness seeps in as the students deal with Ego Deconstruction/Reconstruction. Much of the time Kingsley seems to play more at therapist than acting coach, but maybe it’s one and the same.

Embrace pain, ‘anguish can be made into music’, learn to be true to your authentic emotions, stand up for yourself. It will all hurt less when you’re older! Learn self-possession, control your ego, ego is wildly useful if you can master it. The problem is Kingsley guides the students to relate their own lives to the ’emotional authenticity’ that acting requires. Teens aren’t ready for that mature honesty, applied in real life situations and why does his ‘intrusion’ outside of school feel like something Sara, for example, welcomes? Then the English People come and Sarah becomes more a theatre (remember, it’s theatre not theater according to him) exile, Mr. Kingsley no longer investing his time, attention nor guidance upon her life. So many of the students manipulate, but they all often seem to be playing parts to fit in or to stand out. Kingsley is the master, using his adult eye upon the lives of his ‘players’. The only authenticity seems to come from Sarah’s confusion and hurt, or does it? There is Karen, dating the much older (and of questionable morality) Martin of the “English People” set, Martin (whom David later admires as his mentor) who has much more of a story in the second half that made me wonder, was I not paying attention enough in the first part of the book? As a reader I felt like I was stretched all over the place and couldn’t fully grasp what the heck was going on. Then something happens to Sarah and no one is there to ‘safeguard her welfare’, no one to chase after her as she both wishes for and fears happening in equal measure. Certainly David isn’t available!

Rush to the future, Part Two of the novel and everyone is all grown up. We meet Karen waiting for her old friend ‘the author’. About that author and CAPA alumni, just how much of her story is authentic? How much of the beginning of the novel is true? How much of what we recall with our memory about our own tortured youth is genuine? Honestly, I still don’t know. I think I lost the plot by the second half and end. Just when I think I grasp things, Choi changes direction and I am still not sure what this novel is about.

There is intelligent observations about emotions, youth, relationships but I think the novel just wasn’t straight forward enough for me to be fully engaged. I have to feel a little less dizzied by the characters, I think I drifted away too often. It was good but I didn’t really care enough about the characters. However, there is very clever writing within, this is a heck of a line, “Maybe it was unfair of Karen to see Sarah and David as twin narcissists, each fixated on the other’s ancient image and seeing in that hapless teenage lover some lost part of themselves they still wanted back.” Wow! I need to read a different book by Susan Choi, because she possess a keen intelligence, it just didn’t work for me here.

Publication Date: April 9, 2019

Henry Holt & Company

 

The Forgiving Kind by Donna Everhart

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Daddy said the land’s soaked into me the way blood soaks into wood, a permanent, everlasting mark. Three years ago, when I was nine, he placed an old willow branch into my hands, and showed me how to do what he’d been doing since I can remember, something he calls “divining water”. Turned out I could do this too.

It is the 1950’s in North Carolina and Martha “Sonny” Creech works side by side with her father and brothers on their cotton farm. No one loves the land as much as Sonny and her father, despite the fact that most girls are meant for ‘softer’ more lady-like skills. Living on the cotton farm with her brothers Ross and Trent (a teen with a wild streak who hates farming), Sonny and her father have a special bond, both soaked to their marrow with their love of the land. It had all felt perfect, as long as they could farm and be a family until tragedy strikes and her father dies. That’s when Frank Fowler falls over her family like a dark shadow, with an offer that to the Creech siblings feels more like a deal with the devil.

Why can’t her Mamma see the real Frank, rather than the sly, charming man he pretends to be in her presence. How could her brother Trent be so accepting and chummy with him? No one understands Sonny more than her best friend Daniel, unlike the other boys, ‘different’, smart as a whip with big dreams of one day being a director. Such fancy ideals aren’t to be tolerated in a town like theirs, and Frank will bully every sign of weakness he witnesses in Daniel and the Creech siblings. For her mother’s sake, Sonny has to try to keep the peace, Frank is their salvation, their only chance to escape ruin. Daniel in all his wisdom, with the experience of knowing men’s desires watching his own mother as she entertains them, understands exactly what Frank wants from Sonny’s mamma. Surely her mother would never sully her father’s memory by taking up with a tyrant like Frank? What can a twelve-year-old girl do but obey her elders, as she was raised to?

Both Daniel and Sonny suffer the cruelty of other children for their odd ways yet in Daniel’s case, it’s the adults that are the biggest threat. For Sonny it’s her water diving skills, a gift she inherited, one she shared and was nurtured by her father. As her peers mock and call her ‘water witch’, her attempts at finding water hurt her more when Frank derides her for thinking her ‘gift’ isn’t real anymore than her father’s was. She’s just a girl in his eyes, and girls have no power, don’t belong taking part in any ‘man’s work’. There is an undercurrent of anything feminine as weakness, particularly if witnessed in boys. I also felt early in the novel when Daniel meets his sister at the bus stop, eyeing Sarah’s clothes Sonny starts to think about what it means to wear tight things and have a ‘reputation’, which absolutely expresses the thinking of the 1950’s, still true today to an extent.The author says a lot about our culture back then, just in that word “reputation”, a brand a small town girl could never wash off. When Frank isn’t bullying her siblings and best friend he spends his time insulting her father and how he handled his farming, a man who is no longer alive to defend himself.  It isn’t long before he insinuates himself even deeper into her family, sitting at their dinner table but Sonny could never foretell the evil that beats in his bigoted heart. His calculated schemes culminate into an act so vile that keeping secrets for her mother’s sake may cost them their very humanity.

This is a dark, heavy novel that explores silence and power, those who have it and those who don’t. There is nothing so helpless as being a child, at the mercy of the grown ups, your very first leaders. Second to that vulnerable state, being a woman. At the start, the Creech children know a father who is tender, who teaches them values and is hard only when necessary because farming requires attention to detail and hard-work. A father who loves his children and treats his beloved wife with respect, a man his children can be proud of. All of that changes with his death, and with three children to feed, a farm to save and very few options their mother has to accept the only deal on offer. That’s how the world sometimes works for us, backed into a corner and you do what you can to survive. Often it’s too late when you discover the truth of the person you thought was your salvation. Sonny’s mother and Daniel’s both lack choices, and let’s think about Daniel, he is fodder for Frank because he lacked the protection of a father, or siblings. He also carries the burden of his mother’s choices, her alcholism (in the 1950’s for a woman to drink was considered far more deviant than a man who was a drunk), shouldering shame for a father who walked out when he was a baby and rather than empathy finds only contempt.

Too, the times have an enormous influence on our decisions and options. Women weren’t exactly in full control of their destiny in the 1950’s anymore than children were.  Anyone who was ‘different’ or didn’t fall into line was more than just ridiculed, makes you understand why certain people were chomping at the bit to escape their small towns. Not every citizen accepted bigotry and bullying, nor were as small minded as Frank but when you could find your life at threat, the safety of your family, you knew to keep your mouth shut tight and if you didn’t, you would pay. Some people thrive on love, others on rage and hatred but it all catches up to you, doesn’t it? I think we ‘modern folks’ tend to judge people of the past under the safety and freedom of our own times. No one is going to beat you to near death for defending someone or having an opinion for the most part, unfortunately back then they could and the those meant to protect could be a part of the corruption. This novel exposes the uglier side of a small town in the 1950’s. Read the Author’s Note at the end, it’s worth your time. Disturbing and honest, yes read it.

Publication Date:January 29, 2019

Kensington Books

Vacuum in the Dark: A Novel by Jen Beagin

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While her parents were busy ruining their marriage, she’d spent three or four days a week with her paternal grandfather, Woody Boyle, a mild-mannered man, an avid reader and functional alcoholic. But he’d taught her all of life’s essentials: how to spit like a man, take a good photograph, drive stick, make a stiff drink, swim butterfly, French-braid, and, perhaps most importantly, how to play dumb.

Mona’s voice is always entertaining for me as it’s unfiltered. In Pretend I’m Dead it was all about her love for drug addict Mr. Disgusting and his “creepy honesty.” She staunchly remains messy, keeps her cracks like we all do and isn’t going to transform into a perfect human ideal giggling under some rainbow because she has it all figured out. Does anyone ever truly do this in real life? Wherever you go, there you are whether you’ve gained wisdom or not, you’re still you! So Mr. Disgusting is out, what does she do? Takes up with a married man she calls Dark, of course, which isn’t really a step up from chasing after her dead junkie boyfriend. Still cleaning other’s filth, she spends her days swooning over the love notes he brazenly leaves behind for her to find on her cleaning days at his home. The stupor their love-making puts her in dissipates when Rose, his wife, enlightens her about the true state of their marriage. Then there is the mystery pooh, yep… poop. Jen Beagin can spin some of the strangest situations for Mona, darkly hilarious, she seems to witness people at their lowest. I shouldn’t grin like a lunatic when I read her books but I do. This novel is a great escape from the usual writing out there.

Soon she meets the barbarians, cats owned by the Kosas, a pill popping Hungarian couple. The murderous cats are as exotic as Lena and Paul, both artists with a house that feels like a lover waiting to be explored by Mona. Explore it she does, making her own art, taking photographs while talking to herself (Terry, her subconscious or imaginary friend), crossing boundaries, as always. We learn more about Mona’s past in this book. Yoko and Yoko (Shiori and Nigel) are still telling her to ‘stay curious’ but she isn’t curious enough about her childhood, would rather leave what is hiding in that dark abyss untouched. Lena and Paul convince her to pose nude for them, but it’s the way Lena helps Mona feel carefree enough to ‘bare’ herself that bonds them as much as Lena’s “war stories”. Then there are the pills, no big deal… Lena can mentor her, help her get her foot into the art world, do something with her photographs. Lena helps her give birth to the meaning behind her pictures, which tell a story Mona hadn’t been paying attention to until Lena’s keen eye comes along. Their intimacy happens fast, Mona is finally opening herself up to someone, telling Lena a story she buried long ago, making her vulnerable in a way she has never been and just like that, Lena is gone, a sudden abrupt departure.

Mona is left alone to pose for Paul as Lena is called away for work at the gallery, props are firing off memories of her past better left untouched. She discovers through Paul that Lena hasn’t been as open and forthcoming as she seems. There is something about Mona that has inspired Lena to pull her into their world, that has Lena praying for her and for rain, rain in a clear sky. Paul wants too much from her, it begins to feel wrong, and to the surface the muck of her long-held shame rises. The couple may be a catalyst forcing her to understand that her long held beliefs about her relationships have been skewed, always forcing her into the role of villain.

Licking her wounds from betrayal, her biological mother calls and asks her to come out to LA and pick up the boxes she has kept. Returning feels like regressing, and her mother and stepfather Frank seem to have ‘gone to the birds’. Drug abuse, mental illness… all sorts of troubles in her family genetics, but things can change, people can sober up and face their pain. It’s never too late for one’s mother to take her rightful place in your life, is it?  For Mona, it’s ‘mercy’ that brings her to tears, and tough Frank may surprise her as much as her ‘reformed’ mother. The forces of nature lead her to a man named Kurt and Bakersfield but old habits die hard, Mona doesn’t always do the right thing for herself, and she sometimes figures things out too late, but some people take the long way home. Mona likes to chase her own tail, but by the end she may find direction and clarity.

I think Jen Beagin is fantastic because maybe I enjoy my characters shell-shocked by their life experiences, it is easier to relate to imperfection. I loved it!

Publication Date: February 26, 2019

Scribner

Finding Dorothy: A Novel by Elizabeth Letts

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“Oh,” Maud said. “I don’t know the first thing about theater. How does one go about becoming a theatrical man?”

“Well, I wasn’t fit for anything else,” Frank answered, his eyes crinkling up into a smile. “Not a whit of business sense, I’m afraid- unless that business is magic.” 

Maud Gage “understood that she has been anointed- she must not let her mother down.”  Matilda, her mother, had fought for women to be seen as equals to men, for women to have the right to earn college degrees (the only hope for a better future) something she herself was denied. When Maud’s older sister Julia cannot fulfill her progressive mother’s expectations due to health difficulties, Maud must take her place. At Sage  (Sage Hall was built to house females at Cornell back in 1875) she befriends Josie Baum, and realizes that her ‘eccentricities’ that at home were encouraged make her feel like a complete misfit at Cornell. Women may have more doors open to them than her mother ever did, but aren’t meant to be engaging, are expected to fade into the wallpaper. For all the talk of equal rights, women are still expected to be ‘like a houseplant’ more for pretty decoration, to be less engaging, to bend to a man’s will and be a rapt audience who fawns over the male pontificating in the classroom rather than voicing their views. If they don’t land a husband their only other option, educated or not, is to return back home to their parents, where they are managed instead by their father or mother. It is through her friend Josie Baum that she meets her future husband, when Josie invites her over to her to a party at her house over Christmas break.  Josie’s cousin Frank, a man of the theater (actor, director, stage manager of the small traveling  Baum Theater Company) who will go on to write the much-loved children’s classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Frank, whose name starts with F. F, the letter that during a seance with her group of friends at the college appeared on the board, whose name her future husband begins with, if you believe that sort of thing and of course… of course she doesn’t. Does she?

The joy of this novel is how Maud and others served as Frank’s inspiration, from a fear of scarecrows to a sad, lonely niece, her special doll and the dress that inspired Dorothy’s iconic gingham one. Anyone who has ever watched Dorothy will warm while reading about the birth of Oz. It wasn’t all success for Maud, whom watches her own sister’s poor choice of the heart and every sorrow and hardship that follows. Her own path now tied to Frank Baum’s, she must bust free from the confines of her mother’s plans, marrying a man whose life is spent on the road with his theater. When she has a child, he must find a career to support Maud and their infant son, working as a salesman and trying to ignore his ‘flights of fancy’. They experience loss, Maud’s severe illness during her second pregnancy,  changes in career for Frank, family strain and deep grief between she and her sister Julia while living in the vastness of Dakota territory.

Future Maud is a widow, nearing 80 and on the set of the film The Wizard of Oz. Here she meets and befriends Judy Garland, developing tender feelings for the lonely, young woman whose overbearing stage manager mother doesn’t seem to protect enough. Bullied by everyone from the director to her co-stars, spies watching her diet like a hawk, young Judy Garland spends a lot of time on the verge of a breakdown, her insecurities fueled by on set cruelties but finds a nurturing presence in Maud, as well as insider information on the part she wants to play to perfection. Who understands Dorothy better than Baum’s own wife, inspiration behind the beloved characters? Too, Maud will fight to keep one of the now most famous songs Somewhere Over the Rainbow from being cut from the film, as much as fight to see young Judy isn’t smacked around, literally. This ‘old woman’ will not be pushed aside, she has made a promise to her husband’s memory and herself that this film must do justice to Frank’s tale, not diminish it! Having been raised by a mother who was quite the suffragette, it seems like destiny that Maud witnesses the binding of Judy’s developed body, to make her appear younger, after all Dorothy was a little girl in the book and the attempts to deny her proper nutrition of course Maud sneaks tasty snacks to feed Judy herself! Such control a far cry from the rights her mother demanded, so far into the future and women still being handled, unrealistic expectations forced upon them. Maud, despite giving up her degree for marriage wasn’t one to retreat, her marriage to Frank dealt her many hardships that even the most educated, progressive woman would break under. They always had love and respect, and she is due credit as much as Frank’s own diligence, for his success. Maud was a woman who managed their family finances, raised their two sons while Frank’s career often pulled him away, who pushed her husband to realize his dreams.

While the relationship between Maud and Judy Garland is tender, the past is the heartbeat of this novel. I don’t think I will ever watch the film without thinking of all the sorrows that touched the Baum’s. There is a lot of heartbreak, the story isn’t all rainbows and good witches but that’s not to say there isn’t a lot of happiness too. Beautiful, I didn’t expect to like this novel as much as I did. It’s a very rich story!

Publication Date: February 12, 2019

Random House Publishing

Ballantine Books