INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"A must-read for anyone who loves history and art.”
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.
The world of the woman immortalized in Andrew Wyeth's haunting painting Christina's World is imagined in Kline's (Orphan Train) intriguing novel. The artist meets Christina Olson in 1939 when he summers near her home in Cushing, Maine, introduced by Betsy James, the young woman who knew the Olsons and would become Wyeth's wife. The story is told from Christina's point of view, from the moment she reflects on the painting; it then goes back and forth through her history, from her childhood through the time that Wyeth painted at her family farm, using its environs and Christina and her brother as subjects. First encountering Christina as a middle-aged woman, Wyeth saw something in her that others did not. Their shared bond of physical infirmity (she had undiagnosed polio; he had a damaged right foot and bad hip) enables her to open up about her family and her difficult life, primarily as a shut-in, caring for her family, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and doing laundry all without electricity and despite her debilitating disease. Hope of escape, when her teacher offers her the chance to take her place, was summarily quashed by her father. Her first and only romance with a summer visitor from Boston has an ignoble end when he marries someone in his social class. Through it all, the author's insightful, evocative prose brings Christina's singular perspective and indomitable spirit to life.
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One the best of 2018 so far
“The older I get, the more I believe that the greatest kindness is acceptance”
This is a fictionalized account of Christina Olsen of Cushing Maine, the inspiration for Andrew Wyeth’s most famous painting Christina’s World. Baker Kline did a massive amount of research on Olsen, a spinster living in rural Maine, who chose, or possibly was chosen to, to care for her family.
Disabled early on by a severe illness,now believed to be Charcot- Marie- Tooth syndrome, an inherited nerve disorder, Christina literally becomes the “chief cook and bottle washer” on her family homestead. She wants more, but is early on taught that she isn’t able to be anything more that that. She isn’t allowed to go to secondary school. The man she loves is insincere as she is not acceptable as his wife. Despite her growing pain she runs a house, caring for both parents and her dying grandmother. Her younger brothers run off to see the world. Her older brother, much more fit than she, gives up his own dreams to be the dutiful son, burying both his parents and running the farm they fought so hard to keep.
Later, the son of N C Wyeth, Andrew, himself disabled, begins to use the farmhouse as a seasonal studio, refining his starkly realistic style there. He and Christina forge a friendship as she learns how people see the whole person. Wyeth’s Christina’s World is seen as a masterpiece of 20th century realism, and the foremost MOMA scholar has written it is more a psychological profile than an actual portrait. This reviewer thinks of it as one of her favorite pictures which she first saw woven into a daily soap opera story as a tween and had a copy in her office most of her career.
I am amazed at the work this author has done, having researched historical characters for my own work. I found I wanted to kick most of the men portrayed in the story for their self-centeredness. But then, I had to look at this story through eyes of Christina Olsen’s times; where the men worked outside the home and the women cared for them. This is a fantastic book, one of my top choices for 2018. I want to share it with everyone but keep it for myself. Highly recommended 5+/5
[disclaimer: I won this book from a#GoodReads giveaway and have chosen to review it]
A Piece of the World
Genuinely loved this meaningful and luscious novel!
I wanted to love this book! It started out with a heartfelt familiarity of the stories my grandmother told.... a million chapters later.... nothing... I read on hoping for something...And yet nothing...