From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.
"Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden."
To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.
As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.
Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.
~ My Review ~
At our book club meeting last night, a question was posed about how we view ourselves through other people's eyes. I once wrote about labels and how obsessed our society is about confining us to our assumed roles and identities. We even put ourselves in debt trying to fit into these assumptions by driving the "best" cars, and making sure we were in a "better" neighborhood, and ensuring our children have the "best" education by enrolling them only in the "highly esteemed" private schools. Labels follow us where we are in life.
Christina Olson had labels following her: a sick child, the dutiful daughter, the spinster. I'm sure there are other "colorful" labels that I can put on her but one thing about this woman, and her seemingly sad existence were her choices (or lack, thereof) that led up to a fateful meeting with artist Andrew Wyeth.
In our life, we demand a few things, and one of them is to be known. It doesn't necessarily have to be to the world, but to be known to the people around us. In our everyday, we put up fences around ourselves, and pretend we're better than we believe, and cast on different roles to change the labels people already had assigned us. What if someone takes all of our pretentiousness, or looks past at our ordinary and sees us. Sees us the way we can only hope to be. And in Andrew, Christina becomes one thing - a story; a painting with layers of wisdom, hurts, regrets, suffering. Her life isn't a blank canvas as much as it's a history lesson.
I've never read any of Christina Baker Kline's work but after this, I'm going to pick up a few more. This was moving, and in her descriptions, I was there at the farm, looking on at the sky, the dilapidated house, the sea, the woman with her back turned to me. in her words, I walk into the Olson home, see the lessons written in pictures, in old chests, in seashells, and forget about the labels I put on this woman in the famous painting, but take in all that is her. Through both Kline and Wyeth's eyes, Christina is not only seen and known, but we, the reader and art patrons are given a glimpse and a piece of (her) world.
About the Author
Christina Baker Kline is the author of instant New York Times bestseller A PIECE OF THE WORLD (Feb. 2017), about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the subject of his best-known painting, Christina’s World. Kline has written five other novels -- Orphan Train, The Way Life Should Be, Sweet Water, Bird in Hand, and Desire Lines-- and written or edited five works of nonfiction. Her 2013 novel Orphan Train spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list, including five weeks at # 1, and was published in 40 countries. More than 100 communities and colleges have chosen it as a “One Book, One Read” selection. Her adaptation of Orphan Train for young readers is Orphan Train Girl (May 2017).
In addition to her novels, Kline has commissioned and edited two widely praised collections of original essays on the first year of parenthood and raising young children, Child of Mine and Room to Grow, and edited a book on grieving, Always Too Soon. She is coeditor, with Anne Burt, of a collection of personal essays called About Face: Women Write About What They See When They Look in the Mirror, and is co-author, with her mother, Christina Looper Baker, of a book on feminist mothers and daughters, The Conversation Begins. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Money, More, and Psychology Today, among other places.
Kline was born in Cambridge, England, and raised there as well as in the American South and Maine. She is a graduate of Yale, Cambridge, and the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing. She has taught fiction and nonfiction writing, poetry, English literature, literary theory, and women’s studies at Yale, NYU, and Drew University, and served as Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University for four years. She is a recipient of several Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowships and Writer-in-Residence Fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is on the advisory board of Roots & Wings, a foster-care organization in NJ; The Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor, ME; and the Montclair Animal Shelter, and supports a number of libraries and other associations.
Kline lives in an old house in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, David Kline, and three sons, Hayden, Will, and Eli. She spends as much time as possible in an even older house in Southwest Harbor, Maine.
Book Club Pick:
I use Goodread's rating scale
1 star – didn’t like it
2 stars – it was OK
3 stars – liked it
4 stars – really liked it
5 stars – it was so amazing, it's on my reread pile!