A Piece Of The World by Christina Baker Kline – 320 pages
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. 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.
My Review: 4 stars
A Piece Of The World is a written portrayal of life in Cushing, Maine and the inspiration behind much of famed American artist, Andrew Wyeth’s work. It’s a beautiful and peaceful book, written very much in the spirit of Wyeth’s signature regionalist American art. It’s a quiet book with a somewhat melancholy feel, yet I was completely entranced with the story.
Christina and her brother Al, subjects for Wyeth’s work, are well developed and feel as lonely as the farm they live on. Their state of being was frightening with no running water or electric, but for these two it was what they knew and accepted as normal. Christina never gives you a chance to feel bad for her, as her pride is stronger than any pity that came her way. I did feel bad for Al as his choices were limited changed his life forever.
Andrew Wyeth brings joy to the farm and becomes a kindred spirit with Christina. Their relationship is simple yet deep. He sees her for who she is and then ironically, through his painting, allows the world to see her as she truly is. No one would know they were friends or that she was crippled, and that is how she always wished to been seen. She was so much more than her disability and Wyeth’s painting gave her that.
This author made a name for herself with the literary hit The Orphan Train in 2013. I’m so happy she took her time to develop this book to its fullest potential. Many times authors work on such quick deadlines that the end product suffers. That is not the case with this novel. There is a story behind the numerous facts that the author procured and it was worth the wait.
Ultimately this book is about family, legacy, love, friendship, loneliness, humanity, art, hard work, choices, trust, heartbreak, dignity and disappointment. It was interesting that the main character was related to the prosecutors at the Salem Witch trials, but didn’t really add to the storyline.
Quotes I liked:
Here is what I know: Sometimes the least believable stories or the true ones.”
-“Life is just one trial after another. You’re just learning that earlier than most.”
-“I feel as if I’m being whipped, every word a lash.”
-“Everything comes back to this boy, the faulty carapace. How I wish I could crack it open and leave it behind.”
-“I wonder, not for the first time, if shame and pride are merely two sides of the same coin.”
-“I hate her for it. For seeing me clearly, for not seeing me at all.”
-“The older I get, the more I believe that the greatest kindness is acceptance.”