Published February 2017 by William Morrow
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
“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.
A print of Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World hung in my parents house for many years. It has been on loan to my for many years now so when TLC Book Tours contacted me about reviewing a book based on the painting, I didn't hesitate to say "yes!" I may be the only person who has not yet read Baker Kline's Orphan Train, but I've read enough praise of it to feel that she would do justice to a story I've been building in my head for years. Who is this woman who appears so alone in the world?
A Piece of The World more than lived up to my expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed this blending of the history of Wyeth's process, Olson's family history and her own sad life, and fiction. In the painting, Wyeth has managed to convey both a wide open world and Christina's own very limited life. Baker Kline is equally adept at conveying that feeling. Her Christina is a woman who has watched her own hopes be squashed, had her chance at love lost, and had to deal with debilitating impairment and a family who expects her to carry their burdens despite her own.
Kirkus Reviews says the book is "thin on plot." I feel that reviewer missed the point of the story. This is not a plot-driven novel. This is a novel about a character and how her life brought her to the place where she became the inspiration for one of modern art's great masterpieces. It makes that painting live. But it also leaves, for me, the mystery.
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Christina Baker Kline is the author of five novels. She lives outside of New York City and on the coast of Maine. Find out more about Kline at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
To learn more about Andrew Wyeth, check out his official website.