The other day I was re-reading ( yes, I do this often!) THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ by L.Frank Baum.
Now, the first question you are probably going to ask yourself is, why in the name of all that’s holy is she reading this when she can watch the movie? After all, it’s a classic for a reason and the time involved to watch it is a mere 2.5 hours instead of days to read the book.
Good question. Trust me, I have my reasons.
You all know I lovelovelove Pride and Prejudice
and Gone With The Wind.
I’ve written several times in blog posts about how those books literally carved a romance writing career out of the dust for me. But, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was the first book I ever remember reading that actually made a difference in my life.
Let me ‘splain it you, Lucy.
Like Dorothy, I was a solitary child, a bit of a misfit ( okay, more than a bit!), and a dreamer. The only child of divorced parents who both had their own issues, I was often left to my own devices and sometimes found it difficult to stay out of trouble. Not bad trouble where the police and child services were needed, but stupid, risk taking stuff that I would absolutely lock my daughter in her room for if I ever found out she did the same things!!
I used to spend every afternoon after school at the local library. Back when I was a kid there were no such things as afterschool care, and my mother couldn’t afford a babysitter to watch her NOT-baby until she came home at 7 after work. So I would walk each and every day after the dismissal bell to the library. Homework was always ridiculously easy for me so I spent the majority of my time reading through the book selections.
Now, if you’ve ever actually read the Oz book you know it’s a little different from the movie. I hate spoilers, so I won’t say how. What I will tell you is the moral of the story, There’s No Place Like Home hit me at a time when I was considering doing something really dumb: run away from home.
I won’t bore you with the reasons why I felt this was a viable option for me. Suffice it to say, I had my reasons. And to me, at the time, they were valid and non-negotiable ones. I’d been planning how to run away, what to take with me, where I’d go, etc..everything that was needed for a successful fleeing. Even back then I was a list maker and had filled page after page with my plans and what I needed to accomplish before I could go and start a new life away from…well, my old one.
My plan was sound. I was going to leave Friday after school. When the bell rang I would disappear. Thursday, though, I was sitting in my usual seat in the library, reading the Oz book, when I finished it. That moral I told you about? There’s No Place Like Home? Yeah, it hit me hard. After reading about all the troubles and problems and terrifying situations Dorothy had gone through, only to discover her heart’s desire was to be right back where she belonged – home – I had a tiny breakdown and a big change of plans.
That book quite literally changed the course of my life. As an adult I can see that my plans to run away were stupid, ill-conceived, and could have ended in potential tragedy. As a child, all I could see was heartbreak and depression. Somehow, I connected with Dorothy and her story. True, it was bald fiction, fantasy at that, but Baum made me feel as if Dorothy knew me. And more, got me.
I’ve never told this story before. It always seemed a little, well, to be honest, stupid. But I realize now that it’s not. I realize now, with perspective and the wisdom of age, that reading saved me, in more ways than one. It not only opened a word of imagination and joy to me, it also helped me appreciate the life I had.
So when people ask me what book changed or influenced my life and why, the answer is an easy one on both counts.
There–really–is no place like home.
I have a home library now, but if you need to find me I can usually be seen hanging out in these places: