A Piece of the World

September 2017 – Karen

Karen’s Pick
September 2017

A Piece of the World: a Novel
Christina Baker Kline
William Morrow; First Edition edition (February 21, 2017)

Christine Baker Kline has written a beautiful and poetic novel based on Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World.” The author uses her remarkable skill to weave fact and fiction to portray Christina’s complicated relationship to her flawed family members and her special relationship with one of America’s greatest modern artist. For those who do not know the painting (it is required viewing if you choose to read this book) we see a portrait of woman who appears from the back, to be bit frail and placed in the center of a field of tall grasses looking up into a distant and faded farmhouse. The woman in the painting is “Anna” Christina Olson of South Cushing, Maine.

Christina is introduced to us as a happy and adventurous child living in a small town on her remote family farm. We soon realize that her life will drastically change by the age of ten when she is diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease that will cost her the use of her legs by the age of 30. The struggles she most overcome in order to function in her increasingly small world requires more of her than one could imagine. During the course of Christina’s declining physical state she cares for her ill mother and irascible father, emotionally supports her three brothers, and unconditionally respects her grandmother, all of whom resided in the Olsen Homestead.

Due to her disabilities Christina must learn to cope with losses other than the use of her legs- the loss of a lover, the loss of her dignity, and most importantly, the loss of hope and expectation.

It is at this most sorrowful point in Christina’s life that Kline introduces the reader to the young artist, Andrew Wyeth. During her next 20 summers an aging and pitiful Christina eagerly anticipates the return of her friend Wyeth to Cushing. He loves the Olsen farm and its neighboring view of the sea. Wyeth uses a vacant bedroom in her home as his painting studio. Christina soon becomes his muse and his model. The special bond that Christina Olsen and Andrew Wyeth share during their time together is subtle, nurturing and productive. It is this relationship that allows Wyeth to paint the much-admired “Christina’s World.”

In this reader’s opinion, Christine Baker Kline’s writing in A Piece of the World, should be considered as the paradigm for a vivid and poignant novel. I highly recommend this work of popular “fiction.”