Something Wicked This Way Comes

I distinctly remember the first time I picked up a Gregory Maguire book. It was in a Chicago bookstore, at the very end of my first serious adult relationship. In the beginning of Winter, I thumbed through the first edition volume of Wicked, poring over the map of Oz and wishing with all my might that it would take me out of my misery and melancholy. In the past, when grieving or trying to get over someone or something, I would turn to books. They eased the sleepless nights, taking me out of the moment and occupying my mind with the fictional troubles of made-up people. That particular winter, I needed to escape from myself more than ever, and Mr. Maguire painted a world of wonder with carefully chosen words and painstakingly-crafted images. It was a work of grotesque beauty, chilling philosophy, and the crushing potency of love. It posited questions of power, morality, and loyalty, over the bonds of friendship, family, and romance. The epic tale of the woman who would become the Wicked Witch of the West touched me and many others in ways both powerful and profound, and it was then that I discovered the healing power of art. We all share the same pain, the book seemed to plead, and Maguire’s voice soared timelessly over the magical lands, cleverly revealing the inner-workings of the universal heart.

I found sanctuary in his words, and in Elphaba’s fierce solitude. Her ultimate heartbreak mirrored my own desolation, and Maguire’s rendering of the terror of despondency clanged like the bitter toll of the bells of shared sympathy. Some books are bound to the time in our lives when we read them, inextricably knotted into the fabric of that moment, and for that difficult Chicago winter, far from friends and family and home, Wicked was my only companion.

Mr. Maguire has written the final chapter of the Oz saga, in his forth Volume of the Wicked years, with Out of Oz, which is out this week. Once again, I am looking for escape, for rest, for peace – and based on the first few pages alone, it seems I have found it. Get ready to fly…

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