A Piece of the World: A Novel
By Christina Baker Kline
Life on an isolated farm in rural Maine has many challenges, but for Christina Olson, physical limitations make her world all the more lonely. Life passes by in a blur as Christina works, first as a child and then as an unwed woman, at the myriad of laborious chores it takes to keep house for her family.
Christina’s education stops at eighth grade, despite her promise as a student, and her small world becomes smaller yet. A chance at romance, at love, at escape stretches over years, teasing in its intensity and promise. Yet Christina remains, tethered to family and the farm that has been in her family for hundreds of years.
When the artist Andrew Wyeth and his wife, Betsy, whom Christina has known since Betsy was a child, start spending summers in the area, Christina begins a friendship with the artist that is uncomplicated and simple, yet deeply meaningful to both of them. Christina becomes Wyeth’s muse, and as such is the subject of several of the artist’s most recognizable works.
A Piece of the World is a fictionalized version of Christina Olson’s life, but the author, Christina Baker Kline, has drawn heavily on research and facts that weave throughout the novel to present the seemingly simple life of a strong and complex woman. Olson’s painful physical condition underscores her raw strength, a true product of New England pioneer spirit. Olson is tough, yet beneath a crusty exterior beats a kind and caring heart trapped by body and circumstance. Klein perfectly captures that spirit of unflagging devotion that binds Olson to the land as readily as would a short leash. By alternating between Olson’s childhood and later years, Klein quite effectively paints her own portrait of Christina, giving readers an absolute treasure of a story. Evocative and compelling, A Piece of the World is not to be missed.
Joyce Greenfield, ReaderToReader.com