Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline is about Christina Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth's painting Christina's World. I've always loved the painting and thought of the subject as a young woman enjoying the land, feeling free in the Great Outdoors. It wasn't till I read about Christina, a couple years ago, that I realized the subject was a real person, not just a random model. And, it wasn't till I read the book that I noticed certain details.

Christina lived outside a small town on the coast of Maine and her world was truly limited almost entirely to the area around the house. Stricken by a crippling disease in her childhood, Christina's limbs became deformed. The disease was progressive, later causing her a great deal of pain and robbing her of her ability to walk. Eventually, she dragged herself wherever she wanted to go.

A Piece of the World takes you through Christina's life, describing her illness, her relationships with the other members of her family and how they all gradually either died or went off to live their own lives, the brother who sacrificed aspects of his own life to care for Christina, and her friendships with Andrew Wyeth and his wife. The painting itself isn't actually mentioned till nearly the end of the book, when it's painted. But, by then the reader knows the artist and his subject well enough to feel a depth of meaning in its details.

Recommended - While not as engrossing as Orphan Train, A Piece of the World is a fascinating read. I enjoyed learning about Christina, Andrew Wyeth, and the setting of the painting Christina's World. The tone is haunting and generally melancholy. Christina was not a happy person and her life was difficult, even excruciating. But, Christina Baker Kline's writing is lovely and I'm very glad I read A Piece of the World. I'd recommend saving it for when you're okay with a melancholy read if you're affected by the tone of a book.

Side note: My F2F group loved Orphan Train so much that they've been eagerly awaiting the author's latest work. I'm not sure whether or not I'd recommend it as a discussion book, so I asked our group leader if she'd like to borrow my copy to judge for herself and she replied with a very enthusiastic "yes". If we end up eventually discussing it, I'll post about the discussion (but that would be after it comes out in paperback).

Bonus: There's a copy of the painting in the back of the book. I kind of wish I'd flipped ahead and realized it was there as I was reading the description of it, but it's nice to have a copy of the painting! I've loved it for many years. Reading about Christina may have changed the way I see it a little bit, but it also made the painting even more special.

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  1. Cool! I really liked Orphan Train, so even if this one doesn't quite live up, I'm most likely game to read it.

    1. It's worth reading, Andi. And, let's face it, a book that follows one so beloved is often going to suffer by comparison.

  2. I'm thinking I need to read both of these hearing good things. I'll be sure to be prepared for the melancholy though.

    1. Definitely, Jenny. They're both good books. Orphan Train is great for discussion. My F2F group discussed it, so I've read it twice. I actually liked Orphan Train better the second time!


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