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A Piece of the World
     

A Piece of the World

by Christina Baker Kline
 

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"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

Overview

"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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/19/2016
The world of the woman immortalized in Andrew Wyeth’s haunting painting Christina’s World is imagined in Kline’s (Orphan Train) intriguing novel. The artist meets Christina Olson in 1939 when he summers near her home in Cushing, Maine, introduced by Betsy James, the young woman who knew the Olsons and would become Wyeth’s wife. The story is told from Christina’s point of view, from the moment she reflects on the painting; it then goes back and forth through her history, from her childhood through the time that Wyeth painted at her family farm, using its environs and Christina and her brother as subjects. First encountering Christina as a middle-aged woman, Wyeth saw something in her that others did not. Their shared bond of physical infirmity (she had undiagnosed polio; he had a damaged right foot and bad hip) enables her to open up about her family and her difficult life, primarily as a shut-in, caring for her family, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and doing laundry—all without electricity and despite her debilitating disease. Hope of escape, when her teacher offers her the chance to take her place, was summarily quashed by her father. Her first and only romance with a summer visitor from Boston has an ignoble end when he marries someone in his social class. Through it all, the author’s insightful, evocative prose brings Christina’s singular perspective and indomitable spirit to life. (Feb.)
Marie Claire
“Artfully (pun intended) inspired by the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina’s World.”
Michael Chabon
“A graceful, moving and powerful demonstration of what can happen when a fearless literary imagination combines with an inexhaustible curiosity about the past and the human heart.”
Lily King
“The inscrutable figure in the foreground of Wyeth’s Christina’s World is our American Mona Lisa, and Christina Baker Kline has pulled back the veil to imagine her rich story. Tender [and] tragic.”
Erik Larson
“A brilliantly imagined fictional memoir of the woman in the famed Wyeth painting ‘Christina’s World,’ so detailed, moving, and utterly transportive that I’ll never be able to look at the painting again without thinking of this book and the characters who populate its pages.”
Real Simple
“A gorgeous read.”
Cosmopolitan
“Epic.”
Booklist
“Readers will savor the quotidian details that compose Christina’s ‘quiet country life.’ Orphan Train was a best-seller and popular book-discussion choice, so expect demand.”-
Library Reads
“Fantastic and touching.”
the Oprah Magazine O
“Who has not gazed on Wyeth’s picture and wondered, why does that girl have so very far to go?... A pure, powerful story of suffering met with a fight. In fiction, in her quiet way, Christina triumphs--and so does this novel.”
Nathan Hill
With remarkable precision and compassion, A PIECE OF THE WORLD transports us to a mid-century farmhouse on the coast of Maine. But just like the painting that inspired it, this gorgeous novel is about so much more. Heartbreaking and life-affirming.”
Library Journal
★ 02/01/2017
Andrew Wyeth's painting Christina's World is considered to be one of his best works. It features a woman in a pink dress crawling up a grassy hillside toward a stark wood-framed house. The colors are muted and the overall effect is bleak. The painting's namesake was a real person, Christina Olson, who lived on her family's seaside farm in Maine and suffered from a degenerative condition now believed to be Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. In this finely drawn novel, the author of Orphan Train imagines what it was like to be Christina, consigned to a hard life running a farm even as her world gradually shrinks owing to a debilitating and mysterious ailment. Introduced to Wyeth by a family friend, Christina and her home inspire the artist. He visits daily, setting up a studio in an upstairs room. He admires her quick mind and perseverance. She appreciates his artistic talent and that he does not pity her. As Kline pieces together different eras of Christina's life, her word portrait depicts a stubborn, determined woman. VERDICT Kline expertly captures the essence of Wyeth's iconic masterpiece and its real-life subject, crafting a moving work of historical fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 8/15/16.]—Christine Perkins, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA
Kirkus Reviews
2016-12-07
The real-life subject of an iconic work of art is given her own version of a canvas—space in which to reveal her tough personality, bruised heart, and "artist's soul." The figure at the center of Andrew Wyeth's celebrated painting Christina's World has her back to the viewer, but Kline (Orphan Train, 2013, etc.) turns her to face the reader, simultaneously equipping her with a back story and a lyrical voice. Meet Christina Olson, "a middle-aged spinster" who narrates her life in segments, dodging back and forth between her origins and childhood and her adult life, all of this material rooted in the large Maine house built by her family, whose early members, relatives of Nathaniel Hawthorne, fled Salem in 1743. Born in 1893, Christina is a clever schoolgirl whose opportunity to train as a teacher will be obstructed by her parents, who need her to work at home. The progressive bone disease which makes mobility difficult and brings constant pain scarcely reduces her ceaseless domestic workload. At age 20 she has one tantalizing chance at love, but after that Christina's horizons shrink until the day in 1939 when a friend introduces her to 22-year-old Andrew Wyeth. Christina, now 46, discovers a kindred spirit and Wyeth, a kind of muse whom he will paint several times. Kline lovingly evokes the restricted life of a sensitive woman forced to renounce the norms of intimacy and self-advancement while using her as a lens to capture the simple beauty of the American farming landscape: "The flat nails that secure the weather clapboards, the drip of water from the rusty cistern, cold blue light through a cracked window." It's thin on plot, but Kline's reading group-friendly novel delivers a character portrait that is painterly, sensuous, and sympathetic.
O: the Oprah Magazine
“Who has not gazed on Wyeth’s picture and wondered, why does that girl have so very far to go?... A pure, powerful story of suffering met with a fight. In fiction, in her quiet way, Christina triumphs—and so does this novel.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062356260
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/21/2017
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
66
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Christina Baker Kline is the author of five novels. She lives outside of New York City and on the coast of Maine.

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