"Out of Oz:" Was Glinda Dying or Did Elphaba Come for Her?

First, please permit me to state that this is merely a confused, personal pondering session to see if I cannot figure out the fate of Glinda in Gregory Maguire's "Out of Oz." I realize that the author left it to the imagination, in some ways. That, of course, means that whatever I think happened is what happened, as there is no explanation. I should go on to say that those who have not read the book and plan on doing so should consider this entire piece a SPOILER and therefore click away. Now, I publish this not because I suffer under the delusion that anyone cares what I eked out of Glinda's last moments in "Out of Oz," but to allow whoever reads this to tell me if I missed something, their opinion or even to encourage me not to obsess over cliff-hanger endings.

I suppose I should begin my pondering with the moment in question. Gregory Maguire has Glinda in Southstairs, imprisoned for treasonous acts. There are hints that she will not be staying there long and that the sentence will only be long enough to satisfy political obligations. She is last mentioned in "Out of Oz" as resting in her prison cell when the knob on the cell door is turned. It is stated that Glinda knows who is at the door. She says aloud, "You wicked thing. You've taken your own sweet time, of course." Her use of the word "wicked" is very leading.

Now, in my mind, there are four possibilities to explain this, given later and earlier events in the series. One possibility that I have eliminated is Rain, as she was nowhere near Southstairs. Another possibility is that the Cowardly Lion has come to remove her. That seems unlikely, as he would probably send someone else. Another is that Glinda has simply lost her mind. Yet another is that Glinda is dying and imagining/seeing her best friend as she dies. The last, my favorite and what I believe is more than implied is that Elphaba has either risen from the dead or never died to begin with.

In "Wicked," Elphaba is believed to have died by the hands of Dorothy Gale. However, no one witnessed Elphaba's death. Gale saw her disappear and ran away. Nanny ran up after Dorothy ran away, somehow took control of the Elphaba situation and refused to speak a word of what she saw. Just a few pages before Glinda has this mysterious visitor in Southstairs, Nanny says that she has seen Elphaba in Kiamo Ko. Of course, Nanny is ancient and somewhat senile. There are various other mentions that Elphaba will come back, has come back or did not die at all throughout all of the novels. There may have even been a prophecy of her return, but, as always, Maguire was infuriatingly ambiguous.

Therefore, I choose to assume it was Elphaba. I also love Gregory Maguire for being a bit of a tease that drops who knows how many hints without ever coming out and saying it. Still, I would love him all the more if he just came out and said it.

Shelly Barclay

Book Review: "Out of Oz" by Gregory Maguire

"Out of Oz" by Gregory Maguire is the last installation of his "Wicked Years" series. Like the first two novels in the series, it is an engrossing tale of witches, political upheaval, familial turmoil and, of course, the fantastic land of Oz. The third novel in the series, which centered on the life of the Cowardly Lion was an excellent novel, but it just did not have the draw of the three that centered on the family of the Wicked Witch of the West. "Out of Oz" more than makes up for that slip, while including the Cowardly Lion in a much more attractive way.

The best character out of the motley crew of Ozians presented in the Wicked Years has arguably been Elphaba -- the Wicked Witch of the West. Painted in the original tales as an evil, Dorothy-hating nut job with a shoe obsession disorder; Maguire took another direction. His Wicked Witch has a name, a history and a family. She is more of a misunderstood activist with a knack for magic than evil. She is a bit of a grump, though. Since her death at the hand of Dorothy in "Wicked," nothing has come quite close to matching her in Maguire's books -- until "Out of Oz."

"Out of Oz" centers on the childhood and teenage years of Elphaba's granddaughter. In "Son of a Witch," Elphaba's son Liir fathers a green girl that comes to be known as Rain. Rain's life takes the reader on a journey that reintroduces many of the important characters from the earlier novels. It drags up old hurts and creates new ones. It is filled with as much tragedy as the story of Elphaba and more. At its heart, it is the story of a girl whose life is defined by the generations before her, but who evades all definition. Rain, like Elphaba, is quick to learn and slow to love. She is fierce, but she is dedicated. She is an even less tame version of her grandmother and she makes "Out of Oz" a page-turner.

Gregory Maguire reuses some of the themes from "Wicked" and "Son of a Witch" in "Out of Oz" with great success. There is magic, but seemingly more restraint. There is the topic of same-gender relationships again, but this time with a huge twist and with a lingering lesson that love does not take heed of trivial matters, such as possession of specific organs. One of the best themes that is ever-present is the anti-hero in all of the heroes. Virtually every character that does anything worthy of approval also has nearly unforgivable flaws. Rain is rude, dismissive, self-absorbed and sulky. Glinda is even more self-absorbed, but she is also petty and narcissistic. The Cowardly Lion is, well, cowardly. Liir is ever in love with two people. The list goes on.

From beginning to end, "Out of Oz" is a fantasy drama that displays Maguire's capacity for taking the unreal and making it realistic. The problems faced may involve a fictional place where dragons and magic dwell, but they are relatable problems. My one complaint is that the "end" reminded me of the Dark Tower series' ending. Thank you, Stephen King. The similarity was that it was so unsatisfying. It was an end without an end. An end left to the imagination is a gift in some ways, but with some futures looking rather uncertain, I would prefer to call it an intermission. However, it looks like it really is the end. Maguire says it is so, as does the dang book jacket.

Shelly Barclay

Short Story Review: "Dreams of Virginia Dare" by John P. O'Grady

"Dreams of Virginia Dare" by John P. O'Grady is one of the short stories in the anthology "Otherworldly Maine." It shares the book with such names as Mark Twain and Stephen King and is somewhat outshined by these others, to be honest.

"Dreams of Virginia Dare" starts off and gets its footing on a web of American history. Set in Maine, it draws from tales of Boston and even further south, the lost Roanoke Colony. The name Virginia Dare comes from the first child born to those colonists -- a little girl who was lost to history along with her family and neighbors. This, and the addition of allusions to magic, got "Dreams of Virginia Dare" off to a running start. It was mysterious, strange and very . . . Maine.

Before I dive into where it went wrong for me, I should mention a little more of where it went right. It was realistic, an area where many stories fail. It was explanatory and amusing in a "look what the years reveal" sort of way. However, it was also anti-climactic. It was as if it started from the end and worked its way to the beginning in terms of experience.

"Dreams of Virginia Dare" by John P. O'Grady" was a short read, compared to the other stories in the anthology. While I would not seek it out on its own merit, I certainly would not suggest skipping it when reading this anthology. It has good moments and is over rather quickly, so it is hardly a waste of time to give it a chance.

Shelly Barclay