Note: I received this book from the publisher for review. This does not impact the content of my review.
Book: A Piece of the World
Author: Christina Baker Kline
Format: Paperback ARC
Release Date: February 21, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
“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. (from Goodreads)
My rating: 4 stars
A story of everyday battles and heartbreaks, but also of friendship, and loyalty, and spirit.
While not a fast-paced, I-need-to-know-what-happens, un-put-downable read, A Piece of the World when picked up, is immediately engrossing. Christina Olson’s daily battle with her physical disability, familial and societal expectations, and her own stubbornness, are presented with strength and courage. It is indeed a story of battle and heartbreak, but also a story of friendship, and loyalty, and spirit.
A Piece of the World is an intimate journey back and forth through Christina Olson’s life.
Written in pockets of memories, reading this book is like bouncing around someone’s box of everyday trinkets, things kept for their personal significance, that, though seemingly random and unconnected, all somehow fit together into a compelling story of indomitable spirit.
With all the back and forth, it was, at times, confusing to place the scenes into the chronological context, but once situated, the everyday intimacy of observing Christina’s life from from such a close vantage point is like nothing else. Each scene illuminates another aspect of Christina’s hopes, joys, fears, and burdens. Christina is an old soul, a heavy soul. She is made of pain, but also of perseverance, and of longing. Her home, with its greying clapboard siding and old pantry water pump, and the painting that inspired this novel, demonstrate both her struggle and her fight.
As she did in Orphan Train (a novel I adored and have read twice), the author brilliantly paints a story of a life from childhood to late adulthood. She imagines the relationships between real characters, sets the scenes with historical accuracy, and makes each moment feel real, tangible, and significant. Her prose is clear. Each word perfectly selected. Each element of story shining and further gripping the reader.
While I didn’t connect with this novel as much as I did with Orphan Train, I enjoyed it. It is a portrait of a life. It holds no deep mystery to solve, no quest to complete. Instead, it is an exploration of how a person comes to be. Her story is a worthwhile read.