Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Wicked is essentially the unauthorized biography of the Wicked Witch of the West.  I never read any of L. Frank Baum’s original stories, so I have no idea if this character in Wicked is anything like the original.  I did watch “The Wizard of Oz” every year at the height of tornado season, just to recharge the nightmare batteries.  The Witch in Wicked is definitely not the witch from the movie, but I think that was the point of the novel.  

Wicked started out so promising.  I normally hate fiction, but I started reading this for a long plane right and was immediately enthralled.  The story begins in such detail about the Witch’s childhood, her parents before she was born, what it was like to raise a green baby, her first words, and the family trying to deal with the hardships.  We learn about her sister, her Nanny, her brother, the weird foreign guy who humped their mom and later their dad, and just some amazing backstory that helped shape the Wicked Witch.  She herself isn’t really evil or wicked at the beginning of the novel, it’s more like people didn’t know how to treat her since they’d never seen a green baby.  There’s some fascinating play with the fact the Witch’s dad was a minister, the mom’s a slut, and the poor green baby was some kind of punishment for their sins.

But the awesomeness ends about 100 pages in.  The story skips from the Wicked Witch being two years old to eighteen and going off to college.  We meet Galinda, the Witch’s sister Nessarose aka the Wicked Witch of the East, and a truck load of college buddies.  One of their professors was a Goat, and he’s killed because the Wizard passed a law that animals should be seen and not heard.  Here’s where the book went mind-numbingly boring.  This was only due to the fact, that in real life as well as imaginary life, I strongly dislike politics.  If you watch CSPAN or Fox News, this may be the novel for you.  For me, it was torture trying to read through all of the imaginary politics of Oz.

All the talk of political assassins, military troops, secret planning, brainwashing, and the like just made my brian go, “Blah, blah, blah” as I read over all 250 pages in the middle talking about why they all hated the Wizard of Oz.  It was so hard to believe the Wicked Witch became wicked from some spurned political activist. It’s to the point I don’t even care if that’s the right analysis of why she became wicked.  I just stopped caring and wanted to get the heck through the book.

Around the final 100 pages, the story showed signs of being interesting again and shifted back to being about the Witch and how she became an actual witch, possibly wicked.  There’s never really enough believable evidence that she ever was wicked.  Finally Dorothy shows up, kills someone, yada, yada, yada.  But by this time I was in such a state of “Yeah right” with all of the events that happened, I normally wouldn’t have done this book the courtesy of finishing it (if it wasn’t for the goal of reading 100 books in a year).   

It was intriguing to see how religion weaved its way through the Witch’s life.  From the prophecy of her birth, to her becoming a nun (like I said “Yeah right”), to her sister being truly wicked by justifying her actions in the name of her Unnamed God.  That part was subtle enough to not be annoying yet compelling enough to build character.  But another annoying part in Wicked, besides all the political mumbo jumbo, is how the author flip flopped between an elegant writing style and that of a Penthouse Letters generic writer.  Some of my favorite gems:
“A foot kicked him square between the buttocks and his bowels released.”
“He took some coconut oil and warmed it between his palms, and slid his hands like leathery velvet animals on her small, responding breasts. The nipples stood, the color flushed.”
“He caught himself with a mammoth erection just remembering the last time, and he had to hide himself behind some ladies’ scarves in a shop until it subsided.”
“His bowels turned suddenly to water, and it was only with effort he managed to make it to the chamber pot. His insides slopped noisily, wetly out.”
“The Kumbricia Pass looked like a woman lying on her back, her legs spread apart, welcoming them.”
“She moved her right thumb to her mouth, and with her left hand felt the cloth of Sarima’s gown just below the torque, until she found a nipple, and she ran her thumb over it lovingly as if it were a small pet.”
“She held on tightly; her legs, especially in the upper thigh, felt as if they were swelling, the better to clench the handle between them.”

This book will not be on my shelf for much longer. Blah!


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