"A moving lament for lost childhoods and an eloquent tribute to the enduring power of art."--The New York Times
"Staggeringly original and profound...Extraordinary, wonderful." --Time Out
"A startling, stimulating book filled with angels and scarecrows, gargoyles and garlands, vaudeville and violence. Pynchon goes Munchkin, you might say."--Washington Post Book World
A haunting novel exploring the lives of characters intertwined with The Wizard of Oz: the "real" Dorothy Gale; Judy Garland's unhappy fame; and Jonathan, a dying actor, and his therapist, whose work at an asylum unwittingly intersects with the Yellow Brick Road.
Geoff Ryman is the author of The King's Last Song, Air, The Child Garden, The Unconquered Country, and Paradise Tales. He has lived in Cambodia and Brazil, and now teaches at the University of Manchester, England.
In a darkly imaginative, almost surreal improvisation on L. Frank Baum's Oz books, Dorothy Gael, an orphan churning with rage and self-hatred, is repeatedly sexually abused by her Uncle Henry on their Kansas farm. Sadistic, sanctimonious Aunty Em, who dislikes Dorothy's dog Toto, looks the other way. Rewriting the Oz story as a somber gothic fantasy rich in period detail, Ryman ( The Child Garden ) casts Baum as a substitute teacher who rescues Dorothy from life as a prostitute on the 1880s Kansas frontier. But Dorothy ends up in a mental institution where, as Old Doty, she will be discovered in 1956 by Bill Davison, a caring attendant. In a parallel story set in the 1980s, Jonathan, a gay, Canadian-born horror-film actor dying of AIDS, enters therapy with Bill, now a Los Angeles psychiatrist, who instructs him to visualize that he's in Oz to reenact a childhood obsession. Desperately seeking home, various characters--both real (Judy Garland) and fictional--follow the yellow brick roads of their heart's desires and converge in Kansas. Brilliantly inventive, Was (``a place that never goes away'') combines a stunning portrayal of child abuse, Wizard of Oz film lore and a polyphonic meditation on the psychological burden of the past.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This book has stuck with me for years. I can't wait to read it yet again. Perhaps out loud in a very slightly tinny voice.