Following her breakout novel, Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline returns to Maine to tell the story behind one of our most iconic paintings, Christina’s World. Juxtaposing the story of how Andrew Wyeth came to paint Christina with Christina’s own life, Kline expertly imagines how an artist sees the interior life of a subject with enough historical detail about the Wyeths, Olsons, and Hathorns (yes, it’s a variation of Hawthorne, as in Nathaniel) to satisfy historical fiction fans. Caught between the elegant summer people and the proud but hardscrabble farm existence of her family, and struggling with life’s disappointments, is Christina cursed by the actions of her ancestor, an unrepentant judge of the Salem witch trials, or simply living out the results of her own decisions? Her interior resonates so brightly that I’m tempted to take out a set of oils and paint her myself.— Daniel Goldin
Kline opens the book with a brief prologue, including a statement from the novel's narrator Christina Olson that painter Andrew Wyeth was actually afraid to show her the finished painting Christina's World, which he'd created from inside her home. She explains that Wyeth's 1948 masterwork is not a portrait of her at all. It's wrong in nearly every way, except for the feeling that it captures of her relationship to this house, built by her ancestors, the home in Maine which was the focus of her entire life. An inserted print of the painting, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, closes the book.
This novel is Christina's story, told by her, imagined by Kline, of the tremendously brave and desperate life she led, and how it culminated in an iconic painting by a man I think of as the American art world's John Steinbeck. Like Steinbeck, Wyeth shows us both the pain and beauty of hope and survival, in unmatched detail. Kline's brilliance is that her words carry the intense sorrow and fierce pride which make humanity both terrifying and spectacular. Her book is noble, and so important to understanding American culture. This is a great piece of deeply researched historical fiction.— Tim McCarthy
March 2017 Indie Next List
“Piece of the World is a beautifully rendered novel about the life of Christina Olson, the inspiration for Andrew Wyeth's famous painting Christina's World. Moving back and forth between Christina's childhood and her long-term relationship with Wyeth during her middle years, A Piece of the World captures the internal struggles of a young woman living with a physically debilitating disease in rural Maine. Baker Kline does a masterful job of giving us insight into a fiercely independent woman who has suffered so many disappointments but still manages to create a fulfilling life for herself and inspire those around her with her strength.”
— Phyllis Spinale, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA
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.