A review of
by Scarlett Thomas
Few American stories have been adapted as often as Frank Baum’s 1900 publication, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which has spawned movies, books, musicals, even bedsheets. In her new novel, Going Out, British author Scarlett Thomas offers up a modern-day retelling of the fable which highlights its candidacy as the ultimate Western self-help story.
Set in suburban England, Going Out stars a group of Reality Bites–meets–Bridget Jones twentysomethings in search of cures for their various personal afflictions. At the center of the story are Luke, a twenty-five-year-old boy-man who has a rare allergy to the sun, and his best friend Julie, a bright but fragile young woman whose extreme anxieties have trapped her in a safe but unchallenging routine. When Luke decides to “go out” into the world for the first time to meet an Internet healer, Julie is forced to escort him and a cast of their variously adrift friends and neighbors to Wales—via the “yellow roads,” or B roads, on the map. The allusions to the original Wizard of Oz story are fun to pick out: the extreme weather conditions in which the friends begin their journey, the “witches” who interfere, and the characters themselves, each of whom harkens back to one of Baum’s original Emerald City journeymen.
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