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.
As I walked into the world of a complicated and somewhat isolated woman who is the primary character of A Piece of the World, I was fascinated with her interior thoughts, her interior world, and how she became the muse of the painter Andrew Wyeth, who spent more than twenty years sketching and painting her.
He came in the summers, literally seemed to move into the farmhouse, and immersed himself in the work. When the painting, entitled Christina’s World, was finally unfurled, we see how this artist truly saw his subject. Her complicated and seemingly isolated life was so much more. There were many stories beneath the surface, yielding an iconic character..
As I read, I felt truly sorry for Christina, but also had to admire her inner strength. She showed us how an individual can persevere and triumph. How one person could slowly reveal so many layers that can inspire others, seen by the world through one man’s art. A fictionalized story with a very human centerpiece. 4.5 stars.