Piece of the World
by Kline, Christina Baker

Imagines the life story of Christina Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth's painting "Christina's World," describing the simple life she led on a remote Maine farm, her complicated relationship with her family, and the illness that incapacitated her.

Kline (Orphan Train, 2013) takes Andrew Wyeth's iconic and enigmatic painting Christina's World as the inspiration for her new novel. The story knits together the period in the 1940s when Wyeth sets up a studio in an old farmhouse on Hathorne Point in Cushing, Maine, where 46-year-old Christina Olson lives with her brother Alvaro, and where, at age three, she was struck by an illness that seems to mark the onset of her lifelong infirmities. She grows up smart and tenacious but circumscribed by duty and disability, never moving away from the house that appears in Wyeth's picture and is full of her family's past. Her education is cut short because of work to be done at home. A romance with a Harvard student ends in crushing disappointment. There is not much in the way of plot, but readers will savor the quotidian details that compose Christina's "quiet country life." Orphan Train was a best-seller and popular book-discussion choice, so expect demand. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

The real-life subject of an iconic work of art is given her own version of a canvas—space in which to reveal her tough personality, bruised heart, and "artist's soul." The figure at the center of Andrew Wyeth's celebrated painting Christina's World has her back to the viewer, but Kline (Orphan Train, 2013, etc.) turns her to face the reader, simultaneously equipping her with a back story and a lyrical voice. Meet Christina Olson, "a middle-aged spinster" who narrates her life in segments, dodging back and forth between her origins and childhood and her adult life, all of this material rooted in the large Maine house built by her family, whose early members, relatives of Nathaniel Hawthorne, fled Salem in 1743. Born in 1893, Christina is a clever schoolgirl whose opportunity to train as a teacher will be obstructed by her parents, who need her to work at home. The progressive bone disease which makes mobility difficult and brings constant pain scarcely reduces her ceasel ess domestic workload. At age 20 she has one tantalizing chance at love, but after that Christina's horizons shrink until the day in 1939 when a friend introduces her to 22-year-old Andrew Wyeth. Christina, now 46, discovers a kindred spirit and Wyeth, a kind of muse whom he will paint several times. Kline lovingly evokes the restricted life of a sensitive woman forced to renounce the norms of intimacy and self-advancement while using her as a lens to capture the simple beauty of the American farming landscape: "The flat nails that secure the weather clapboards, the drip of water from the rusty cistern, cold blue light through a cracked window." It's thin on plot, but Kline's reading group-friendly novel delivers a character portrait that is painterly, sensuous, and sympathetic. Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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