Christina Baker Kline is the author of the bestselling and perennial book group favorite, Orphan Train, a book about a survivor of the Orphan Trains of the late 19th and early 20th century and her interaction with a tough young modern woman who’s the product of a similar family background, similarities which the two of them come to discover and appreciate. To the delight of all her fans, Kline has just published another historical novel, A Piece of the World, which also takes us into a different time and place and the interaction of two fascinating people.
If you recognized the picture at the top of this post as Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting, Christina’s World, then you’re well prepared to read this book and discover the background of Christina Olson, the young woman depicted in the painting, her relationship with the artist, and the circumstances which gave rise to the painting. And if you didn’t recognize the picture, then after reading this book you’ll see it, and the rest of Andrew Wyeth’s work, in a new light.
Christina Olson, the protagonist and narrator of this book, was born and grew up on an isolated farm near the small coastal village of Cushing, Maine. Unfortunately for her, not only was her family poor, but she herself suffered from an undiagnosed illness, probably polio, that gradually crippled her, leaving her unable to walk. She was pulled out of school by her father at a young age, a loss she never entirely recovered from, and put to work on the farm with the rest of her family. Fiercely independent and proud, preferring to crawl rather than sit in a wheelchair, Christina had a hard life, but there was something about her which won the respect and even the admiration of the painter, Andrew Wyeth, who met her through her neighbors and became close to her and her brother, painting numerous portraits of the house, the land, and Christina herself, culminating in the famous Christina’s World, the creation of which is described lovingly and in detail in the book.
Too often we know plenty about the artists who create famous works but little or nothing about the models and real life people who inspired them. A Piece of the World does its part to right that imbalance, with vivid prose and realistic, lovable characters, just what you’d expect from the author of Orphan Train.