February 21, 2017
From the publisher:
“Graceful, moving and powerful.” –Michael Chabon, New York Times bestselling author of Moonglow
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.
This edition includes a four-color reproduction of Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World.
My thoughts on A Piece of the World:
This book is a work of historical fiction that delves into the life of Andrew Wyeth’s most famous model, Christina Olson. Wyeth is the artist that painted Christina’s World, on display since the middle of the twentieth century at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
When I viewed this painting in 2015, I knew little about Andrew Wyeth or the painting, except that the work was very popular and that Andrew’s father was also a famous artist (N.C. Wyeth). Thanks to Ms. Kline, I know much more about both the artist and his model and enjoyed reading their story and learning more about both after finishing the book.
The novel is from the perspective of young Christina as she grows up on her family’s farm near Cushing, Maine. When Christina is in her late 40s, Wyeth is introduced to her and her brother, Al, by his future wife, Betsy. The Olsons let Wyeth use a part of the upstairs of the farmhouse as his studio when he came to Maine each summer from his home base of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. If you did not know, Christina suffered from an undiagnosed form of polio and her body weakened rapidly as she grew older. Christina’s World is Wyeth’s vision of Christina’s struggles and joys and celebrates her independence and fortitude in dealing with her disability and with life in general. Ms. Kline does a superb job of creating Christina’s inner world, or what her inner world was perhaps like, as well as her daily life and routine through the years. I am sure Ms. Kline did the necessary research to bring Christina’s world and Christina’s World to life and I appreciate her talent and effort in this process.
As her earlier work of historical fiction, Orphan Train, did, A Piece of the World also made me laugh and cry and held my attention for the length of the novel. Never having visited Maine, I did learn that the home of Christina and her family, the Olson House, can now be toured. Christina died in 1968 and Wyeth lived to be 91, as he died in 2009.
To see a photo of Wyeth and Olson, click HERE.
Kudos to Ms. Kline, who can view a work of art and be inspired to weave a tale of the inner and outer world of a neighbor, friend, and muse of one of America’s finest painters.
Side note: If you live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, Ms. Kline will be speaking at the Dallas Museum of Art on April 3 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets HERE.
Other stops on this blog tour can be found HERE.