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A Piece of the World: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 21, 2017
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“The novel evokes the somber grace of [Wyeth’s] paintings … Christina’s yearning, her determination, her will to dream, occupy the emotional center in both the novel and the painting. A Piece of the World is a story for those who want the mysterious made real.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Another winner from the author of Orphan Train. In this beautifully observed fictional memoir, Kline uses Andrew Wyeths’ iconic painting Christina’s World as the taking-off point for a moving portrait of the artist’s real-life muse. Book of the week.” (People)
“Fans of Kline’s phenomenal 2013 best seller Orphan Train will recognize the way the new novel...brings to vivid life a little-known corner of history...Avoiding sentimental uplift, A Piece of the World offers unsparing insight into the real woman behind the painting.” (USA Today)
“The novel provides gorgeous, complicated answers to all the questions the painting stirs, beginning with the day a young painter appears on her porch. Kline has created a memorable and unforgettable voice for Anna Christina Olson, the girl in the field.” (Portland Tribune (Oregon))
“Kline herself is an artist, drawing on the real history of Christina Olson and Andrew Wyeth to conjure up her own haunting portrait.... Kline’s deep research into characters, place, and time period provides the outlines of a compelling story, which she then expertly brings into three dimensions.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“Like Wyeth’s paintings, this is a vivid novel about hardscrabble lives and prairie grit and the seemingly small but significant beauties found there.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“Artfully (pun intended) inspired by the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina’s World.” (Marie Claire)
“Absorbing...A portrait of Maine farm life, of an iron-willed spinster with polio and the accidental friendship that changes everything...Kline has a graceful, arresting style that lifts the narrative, and her portrayal of Andy leavens the entire story.” (Portland Press Herald)
“With beautiful and stunning prose, the novel explores the sensitive and complex bond between artist and muse against the beauty of the rural American landscape.” (Daily Beast)
“Christina Baker Kline’s remarkable novel, A PIECE OF THE WORLD, is the perfect book club pick. An evocative, beautifully written, exquisitely researched historical novel that will both teach and enthrall the reader. A must read for anyone who love history and art. ” (Kristin Hannah)
From the Back Cover
“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 paintings of the twentieth century, Christina’s World.
As she did in her beloved 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, Kline vividly imagines her life—with her complicated relationship to her family and her past, and her 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.
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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.
Christina Olson is born and lives her entire life in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. When she was young, the house was full of her brothers, her parents and her grandmother. It was a working farm and there were always chores to be done and mischief to get into with her brothers. When she was about 10, she got very sick and was never able to walk well again. Even though her disease was never diagnosed in the book, it appeared to be some type of muscular weakness that progressively got worse. She loved school but when she got to 8th grade, her parents decided that it was time for her to stay home and help with the house. With no electricity or running water, her work was difficult and tedious. When Christina is much older and only she and her brother remain at the farmhouse, which is now run down. Andrew Wyeth, the famous American painter comes to town to visit friends and decided that he want to paint at the farm house. He spends the next 20+ summers painting at the farmhouse in Cushing Maine and the farmhouse and Christine become his muse. She becomes his model for his famous painting "Christina's World".
This book is so well written and tells a story about someone that I never knew existed despite the fact that I have seen the painting. Christina's life was centered on her family and her farmhouse and her life of chores despite the constant pain she was in. She was a wonderful well written character and one that I won't soon forget.