Gregory Maguire, the author of WICKED and three subsequent volumes about the goings-on of the Wicked Witch of the West and the Land of Oz, takes the publication of OUT OF OZ as an opportunity to think back to the origin of this very popular series:
"[OUT OF OZ] will delight Maguire’s legions of fans, but will surely seduce a whole new world of readers, who can start at the end and go backwards in time to WICKED to understand the breadth and amazing imaginative landscape of his remarkable work."
“Depending on how you count the years, I am about at my 25th anniversary of the original inspiration for WICKED. I was on a walk on a country road in Massachusetts, thinking myopically and somewhat self-regardingly about various offenses that I felt had been perpetrated against me. I was wondering about how apparently trustworthy people could turn dangerous, or if they really had been dangerous all along, merely well-disguised, even from themselves? A standard issue college dorm question, I suppose, but the matter seemed urgent to me that year. I moved from the slightly sore subject of my personal life into the realm of imagination to keep the question alive without it hurting so much, and almost immediately I thought of the Wicked Witch of the West --- admittedly, more Margaret Hamilton than L. Frank Baum --- and I wondered: Was she always terrible?”
These are the types of behind-the-scenes accounts that readers enjoy. Where exactly did those characters and stories you love come from? But more importantly, in the case of OUT OF OZ, where are they going to end up? Maguire answers all questions elegantly and with patience (the book is over 500 pages!).
OUT OF OZ finds a number of characters in difficult straits: Glinda is under house arrest, and the Cowardly Lion is a fugitive from justice, running for his life. Oz is still in the grips of a difficult political climate. And then there’s a little girl named Dorothy, who arrives from the Kansas prairie. That is perhaps the best curtain call of all for these Oz origin stories, taking the story back from the past of Elphaba and her heirs to the American farmgirl whose adventures are the usual jumping-off point for most fans. Maguire’s giant heart is splashed all over every one of the thousands of words he utilizes to take us deep into the hearts and minds of these denizens of Oz whom we all thought we knew, until he started tearing down our expectations and replacing them with new and complicated tales. His imagination is well intact in the completion of this series.
For those of you who are jumping daringly into the series at this end point, Maguire includes a number of summaries and a timeline that will help you understand the ways in which these books intersect with L. Frank Baum’s original series. It also includes family trees, so you can see how the characters are related to one another. It’s all very rich and almost so deep that you can barely drag yourself back to the surface that is your everyday life once you’ve allowed yourself to luxuriate in the detailed beauty of his work. When Dorothy is put on trial for the Witches’ deaths, you may feel as if you are reading a story about which you’ve never heard anything before --- it’s THAT interesting. It takes each character into a difficult pass, where they are made to embrace commitment and responsibility in the face of scary situations and downright evil. Glinda is noble, the Lion shows his true colors, and Liir, Elphaba’s son, is able to acknowledge where he is needed and what he must do to honor his mom and move forward into the future with a clear conscience.
OUT OF OZ begins with Dorothy in San Francisco with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry, and her journey is as full and complicated as the place where she starts off from and the place where she ends up. The book takes us through a harrowing depiction of a nation under siege and in the midst of a subsequent rebirth. It will delight Maguire’s legions of fans, but will surely seduce a whole new world of readers, who can start at the end and go backwards in time to WICKED to understand the breadth and amazing imaginative landscape of his remarkable work. Fun for all!
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on November 10, 2011