This haunting, magical, wildly original novel explores the lives of several characters entwined by The Wizard of Oz—both the novel written by L. Frank Baum and the iconic, strangely resonant 1939 film. It is the story of the “real” Dorothy Gale, an orphan living a hardscrabble life with abusive relatives on a Kansas frontier settlement, and of the kindly substitute teacher who decides to write the story of the life she ought to have had. Was is also the story of Judy Garland and her unhappy fame. It’s about Jonathan, an actor now dying of AIDS, whose intense attachment to Oz dates back to his troubled childhood. And it’s the story of Jonathan’s therapist, whose work at an asylum also unwittingly intersects the path of the Yellow Brick Road.
From the Great Plains to glittering Hollywood, Was traverses the American landscape to reveal the whirling funnel cloud at the core of our personal and cultural fantasies. It is a powerful, moving story about survival, and about the power of human imagination to transcend the bleakest circumstances.