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A Piece of the World

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

"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.

352 pages, ebook

First published February 21, 2017

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About the author

Christina Baker Kline

20 books6,288 followers
A #1 New York Times bestselling author of eight novels, including The Exiles, Orphan Train, and A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline is published in 40 countries. Her novels have received the New England Prize for Fiction, the Maine Literary Award, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Award, among other prizes, and have been chosen by hundreds of communities, universities and schools as “One Book, One Read” selections. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in publications such as the New York Times and the NYT Book Review, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, LitHub, Psychology Today, Poets & Writers, and Salon.

Born in England and raised in the American South and Maine, Kline is a graduate of Yale (B.A.), Cambridge (M.A.) and the University of Virginia (M.F.A.), where she was a Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing. A resident of New York City and Southwest Harbor, Maine, she serves on the advisory boards of the Center for Fiction (NY), the Jesup Library (Bar Harbor, ME), the Montclair Literary Festival (NJ), the Kauai Writers Festival (HI), and Roots & Wings (NJ), and on the gala committees of Poets & Writers (NY), The Authors Guild (NY) and Friends of Acadia (ME). She is an Artist-Mentor for StudioDuke at Duke University and the BookEnds program at Stony Brook University.

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5 stars
19,047 (29%)
4 stars
24,718 (38%)
3 stars
14,569 (22%)
2 stars
3,447 (5%)
1 star
2,098 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,861 reviews
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,736 reviews14.1k followers
November 14, 2016
Andrew Wyeth, his painting Christina's World would immortalize this young woman and her life. In fact many of his paintings would feature this farm, where he would visit and paint in the summers for twenty years, a farm that Christina's family had owned and lived in for generations. Cushing, Maine, how the family came here and whom there ancestors were is an interesting back story in itself.

Although Wyeth makes an appearance here and there, for the most part this is the story of Christina, her family and her life. After almost dying as a child of an undiagnosed illness, her legs would never be right, twisted, making her stumble as she walked. As she aged the effects of this illness, maybe undiagnosed polio, would get much worse leaving her with a shrinking world.

Wonderfully written we are immersed in the life of this farm, the changing seasons, the never-ending chores and into the heart of a young woman. At times Christina is hard to like, having had a slim chance of a life outside of the farm, it is taken from her by an act of cowardice, something she resented and could never forget. She is often bitter, frustrated, and often seems too proud. Struggling though she is, she does not want anyone's pity nor their help. Going back and forth we see how a young Betsy, who will become Wyeth's wife, is introduced into her life, later bringing Wyeth. Wyeth will bring bit of color and life into Christina and her brothers Al's world on the farm.

Another fantastic, and touching story by this author. Bringing to life the story behind a painting and the life of a young girl who always wanted more than she was given, but accomplished so much despite her handicap. Someone who, would eventually make peace with her handicap and grow to appreciate the beauty of the place she lived. Memorable and moving.

ARC from publisher.
Publication date: February 21st.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,223 reviews2,053 followers
May 30, 2022
I had read several good reviews for this book by people whose opinions I trust so I expected that I would like it too. I was surprised by how much I liked it and how very readable it was! I found it very hard to put down.

I was not familiar with Andrew Wyeth or his famous painting entitled Christina's World but it made for an excellent story. Poor stubborn Christina with her deformed limbs and constant pain was nevertheless a wonderful character. As the book progressed I began to wonder how on earth the author was going to arrive at any conclusion without completely devastating the reader. Fortunately the author turned out to be much smarter than me.

My copy of this book came from my library and I was the first person to borrow it. So I read from a nice shiny copy with a beautiful cover depicting the house from the story. And then right at the very end there was a picture of the painting "Christina's World" and I could see for myself what all the fuss was about.

Beautiful - the painting and the book!
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews35.3k followers
August 7, 2017
At times I thought of Helen Keller....wishing Christina Olson - [of this story] - had half the opportunities Helen Keller did. I was aching at times for Christina.
This was a gut wrenching sad story. I shed tears a couple of times - and found myself thankful for a relief of the 'smallest' gesture-of-expression-of sibling-love. The touch of a hand between Christina and her brother, Al, was one of the most beautiful moments in this novel to me. There were a couple other 'golden box' beautiful scenes that helped balance the grief & bitterness.

Author Christina Baker Kline created a highly imaginative FICTIONAL MEMOIR. This would make an excellent book club pick ( Sara and I are buddy- chatting this together),
as there is so much the reader wants to talk about. - Many themes to explore:
.....A discussion about the famous painting: "Christina's World", by Andrew Wyeth
.....The history of the Hathorn/Olson house in Cushing Maine
.....Christina's lifelong suffering - possibly Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease - affected EACH family member.
Shame, resentment, lost dreams, family challenges, social class, are some of the themes & issues explored. This novel grapples with real questions that are difficult to answer.

"I think of my mother opening her front door to a Swedish sailor, the stuff of fairytales: Repunzel letting down her hair, Cinderella sliding her foot into the glass slipper, Sleeping Beauty awaiting a kiss. All were given one chance to step into a happily ever after – – or at least must've seemed that way. But was it the prince who attracted them, or merely the opportunity for escape?

A very emotionally charged novel! Real & Raw! 5 strong stars!!!!
Profile Image for Debbie W..
725 reviews489 followers
August 21, 2021
The books that I've read (so far) by Christina Baker Kline are:
The Exiles - Outstanding!
Orphan Train - Very good!
A Piece of the World - It's okay.

This biographical fiction about Christina Olson, the subject in the painting titled "Christina's World" rendered by American artist, Andrew Wyeth, has its pros and cons. It should be noted that Christina was afflicted with (what neurologists now believe) a degenerative muscular disorder called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Here are my reasons for this rating:
Plot (3*): Kline takes us back and forth during Christina's pre-Wyeth and during-Wyeth time while living on the family farm in Cushing, Maine. Except for the period when she was in a relationship with a young man "from away" (which I found most interesting!), most of the story focuses on her daily chores that she performs with difficulty due to her affliction and on her everyday dealings with family and acquaintances.

Characterization (4*): This is a highly-driven character novel! I could feel Christina's hopes and heartache of young love. Also, having my own mobility issues (I walk with a limp, so I guess I can connect with Andrew!), I could somewhat connect with Christina - SOMEWHAT! No, I don't have to drag myself from place to place, but I won't be competing in the Olympics anytime soon! However, at times I found her frustratingly stubborn and incredibly selfish. Thankfully, she eventually recognizes these shortcomings in herself.

Descriptions/Details/Vocabulary (3*): Quite atmospheric, but we get the continual descriptions of household chores and the predated drawbacks of living without creature comforts.

Other (3*): Since I never heard of this artwork, I had to Google it! Unlike the print version, this audiobook does NOT have an Author's Note - why is that??? Finally, I expect a narrator to be EXPRESSIVE! It was too monotone for me.

Although I liked this story overall, it won't be going onto my "Favorites" bookshelf. :-(
February 23, 2017
Andrew Wyeth spent his summers in Cushing, Maine with his family. It is here where he first met Christina Olson who later becomes the inspiration for his painting “Christina’s World”. Christina lived a tough life along with her brother Al on the neighboring farm. Their dilapidated home lacked modern day conveniences and had fallen into disrepair. Andrew encounters the Olsons through their neighbor Betsy and he decides to express their lives via a painting. As Andrew puts paint to canvas, the details of the Olson’s hardships come to light.

The story unfolds with Christina’s as a young girl. A childhood illness left her with difficulty walking and no cure for her bone disease. As she grew older, the effects worsened leaving her crippled making her farm chores difficult. A bright student, the opportunity to further her studies to become a teacher were dismissed early by her parents. Her future only left her with two choices, to marry or maintain the farm. Sadly, she had very few opportunities to make romantic connections leaving her with no escape. Christina is not the most likable character, but by reading the book you become sympathetic to her disposition. Andrew Wyeth developed a relationship with her over many years and was able to capture a different side of her in this painting.

Andrew Wyeth painted the portrait, but the author writes a beautiful story by bringing it to life. Intertwined in the story is how she met Wyeth, who through his masterpiece, shows the world her softer side of someone having suffered so much both internally and externally. The author showcases a very moving and impactful novel.

Book giveaway on my blog until 2/24 https://www.facebook.com/suzyapproved...
Profile Image for Linda.
1,228 reviews1,277 followers
March 11, 2017
"I wanted to show.......both the desire and the hesitation."

You know it well. It's the famous painting by Andrew Wyeth in which a young girl's image is set within the Maine landscape of house, of barn, and of an ocean of endless grass. Wyeth seems to reveal nothing as he casts her likeness from behind. Yet, her thinly posed arms are stretched outward in familiar motion. This is, indeed, Christina's World.

Generation after generation of the Hathorne clan have lived and farmed on this plot of land in the small rural town of Cushing, Maine. History and family lore tell us about the original family's journey from Massachusetts to leave behind the dark pall of the Salem witch trials. Living on the coast of Maine brings with it death and drownings and the lack of a male heir. The Hathorne's have been "daughtered out" until Christina's mother marries a Swedish sailor who happened to be iced in during a terrible storm. Change steps in and with it comes the reference to the now "Olson House".

Christina suffers through relentless fevers that affect her muscles and mobility as a child. We pull back the curtain and experience the first episodes of Christina's stubbornness laced with the clutches of fear. Her father bundles her up and takes her on a long journey to a doctor who may be able to help her. Christina refuses to even subject herself to examination. The stage is now set and the spotlight focuses on her lifetime as a solo act no matter how many move in cadence alongside her.

The artist, Andrew Wyeth, and his young wife, Betsy, become taken with the land that Christina and her brothers own. Christina invites more than just two unexpected individuals into this world of hers. He and Betsy weave in and out of the storyline as he creates his renowned painting. Wyeth, although not the main focus here, has a jagged backstory as well.

Christina Baker Kline presents a splendid perspective on the life of Christina Olson. Kline opens the window within and shines light on the thought that there is much complication, depth, and intensity to a life even in the most simple of environments and surroundings. What appears on the surface of oils and canvas or classrooms or church pews or back seats on buses are voiceless souls seeking a word of validation. Kline reveals that complexity through Christina.

Beautifully written, A Piece of the World speaks of simpler times. But in actuality, the progression of time reveals but one thing......the desire to matter and the desire to make a difference one day at a time.

Profile Image for Cheri.
1,743 reviews2,268 followers
April 1, 2017
”Over the years, certain stories in the history of a family take hold. They’re passed from generation to generation, gaining substance and meaning along the way. You have to learn to sift through them, separating fact from conjecture, the likely from the implausible. Here is what I know: Sometimes the least believable stories are the true ones.”

Their home at Hathorn Point in Cushing Maine was on land claimed by three men, two brothers, Samuel and William Hathorn, and William’s son Alexander. They packed their belongings and fled Salem, Massachusetts for Maine in the middle of winter. At Hathorn Point, they built a tent made of animal skins to see them through the winter months. Log cabins followed, and eventually a house. A house and land that would be handed down from Christina’s grandmother Mamey, to her mother, and then to their children. A place that would, indeed, become Christina’s world.

Betsy James is 9 years old the first time she appears at Christina’s, and from that day on she remains a recurring, and welcome presence in Christina’s life, and in her home. Betsy acknowledges Christina’s physical barriers as one would acknowledge that her eyes were green, it is simply the way she was made. Christina feels at ease with young Betsy. Now 17, Betsy arrives one day at Christina’s door, and mentions that her friend Andrew would like to paint a picture of her house. It doesn’t surprise Christina that Betsey is there or has brought her friend Andrew, the son of N.C. Wyeth, the famous illustrator, artist, of such books at Treasure Island.

We all know the picture, Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth, or enough people know it that according to Andrew’s son Jamie Wyeth (also a well-known artist), the two most popular questions at the Museum of Modern Art are ‘Where is the ladies room?’ and ‘Where is Christina’s World?’ It was the first painting I ever loved, and it remains my favourite. For me, it represents the yearning for some elusive home, to belong to something bigger than ourselves, and yet hesitant, timid, afraid to try for something that is right there and simultaneously seems so out of our reach. A wistfulness. A desire restrained by uncertainty; a tug on our heartstrings for home, the pull of our longing for more.

”He did get one thing right: Sometimes a sanctuary, sometimes a prison, that house on the hill has always been my home. I’ve spent my life yearning toward it, wanting to escape it, paralyzed by its hold on me. (There are many ways to be crippled, I’ve learned over the years, many forms of paralysis.) My ancestors fled to Maine from Salem, but like anyone who tries to run away from the past, they brought it with them. Something inexorable seeds itself in the place of your origin. You can never escape the bonds of family history, no matter how far you travel. And the skeleton of a house can carry in its bones the marrow of all that came before.”

Christina was born with a degenerative disease, which hampered her mobility even as a young child, leaving her frequently stumbling and falling. Eventually it would progress from occasionally stumbling to the point where it was easier not to try to walk. Some believe she had a form of polio, more recent studies indicate it might be Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, however she was never diagnosed during her lifetime. Needless to say, it made life on a farm difficult even in her younger years. Perhaps it made her dreams as a young woman more fragile. Her wish to be seen for herself, a woman with wants and desires, and not simply for her misshapen, unreliable body.

Christina Baker Kline has woven together a story based on some facts, much research, and with A Piece of the World delivers a tender, poignant account of the story behind the painting that rings true. What Andrew Wyeth wrought on canvas, Christina Baker Kline has portrayed with her prose.

The night I fell in sorrow
I knew I was alone
A dozen good-time friendships
But my heart is still unknown
I couldn't reach for rescue
I hid myself from you
I couldn't stand to see me
From your point of view

I knew I'd disappoint you
If I showed to you this child
Who is crying out inside me
Lost in the wild

I feel you behind me
Laughing in the water
Wash away the tears
I feel you behind me
But how did you find me here?

David Wilcox - How Did You Find Me Here?
Profile Image for Marilyn C..
283 reviews
March 12, 2017

"What she wants most - what she truly yearns for - is what any of us want: to be seen."

Christina Olson lived her life mostly as a shut in, born with a degenerative disease that will take the use of her legs in childhood. The famous painter Andrew Wyeth befriends her, and will use her home and land to paint some of his most famous works, including the painting that now resides in the Museum of Modern Art, "Christina's World".

A story told through Christina's eyes as she bravely deals with the hardships of her disease and the effects it takes on her life. She was a strong and determined woman, who through the progression of her disease would use just her arms to pull herself along the floor. I was obviously heartbroken for her, but as the story progressed I became frustrated with her inability to accept help, as she even declined a wheelchair and the way she treated her family and friends.

This was a very intriguing and well researched story that historical fiction readers and art enthusiasts will enjoy. For those of us who like to know the background or "story" of a particular piece, Christina Baker Kline writes an in depth story about Wyeth and Christina's friendship and how the painting came into fruition. I will never be able to view "Christina's World" again without thinking back to this novel.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,023 reviews2,529 followers
March 24, 2017
3.5 stars
Unlike most people, I was not a huge fan of Orphan Train. So, I wasn't sure how I'd like Kline’s latest book. And the beginning was so slow and dry I thought, well, here we go again. But stick with it and you will be rewarded.

The main character is Christina, the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. It seemed to take forever before I felt invested in Christina. Not until her relationship with Walton did she come across as three dimensional.

The meat of this book is all in the second half, as Christina’s condition worsens, her parents fail and all her siblings but Al move away. I wish there had been more interaction between Wyeth and Christina as what there was constituted my favorite parts of the book. He is one of the few that appreciates her for who she is and how she lives her life, without pity.

So, while I would only give the first half a 2 ½-3, the second half is a solid 4.

Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
733 reviews1,779 followers
October 31, 2017
4.5 stars. I loved The Orphan Train and, happily, I enjoyed this just as much. 'Christina's World' is a work of art that has been made more special to me after learning the story behind it. I don't know that I particularly liked Christina, but at the same time I felt a deep connection to her. We can all be tied to anchores and while some are able to pull themselves free, others let it pull them under. I think in the end Christina found her world and, I hope through it all a bit of contentment. My recommendation... grab a blanket, a cup of tea and enjoy this beautifully poignant novel.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,294 reviews2,962 followers
December 6, 2018
4.5 stars

I love the painting, Christina's World. It's one of the few pieces of art I feel a strong connection to and I was thrilled to find out the author wrote this historical fiction book on the real life Christina who inspired the painting. Art is so subjective as each person takes away something different but in my opinion this book really captured the essence of who I imagined the girl in the painting to be and also reading about her makes me look at it in other ways as well. Really a fantastic read!

Generations of Christina Olson's family have lived on a farm in Maine. With a mysterious illness that makes getting around more difficult, it seems likely Christina will never be able to escape this quiet, small town life. Artist Andrew Wyeth meets Christina and is taken by her so much so she serves as inspiration for the iconic American painting, Christina's World.

This historical fiction book is a good mix of fact and fiction. While historians know some things about Christina, she much like the girl portrayed in the painting remain somewhat of a mystery. I thought the author did a tremendous job in showing just what it was about Christina that could inspire such an incredible piece of art. She was such an easy character to feel for and when her heart breaks, your heart breaks.

I feel like this is such a wonderful companion piece to the painting and I highly recommend reading it!
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,098 reviews2,665 followers
April 11, 2017
Born in 1893, Christina Olson became ill at a young age, and from that day forward, her debilitating illness continued unabated. Doctors had no idea what was wrong with her, but over the years she continued to get worse. Her life was centred around the home she’d been born in – the family farm in Cushing, Maine. Christina lived with her mother, father and grandmother plus three brothers, and the duties of keeping the farm running increasingly fell on her shoulders. Made to leave school by her father at twelve years of age, Christina’s yearning to become a teacher fell by the wayside at her father’s demand that she was needed on the farm…

When Christina was forty-six, she lived with her brother Alvaro on the farm, and through her friend Betsy, she met a young Andrew Wyeth. Andy was an artist and his desire to paint and sketch Christina’s home led to him spending days on end upstairs, engrossed in his work. His eventual painting of Christina, which was named Christina’s World was much against her wishes – but Andy by that time was a good friend; little was she to know how well-known that painting would become. Over the years, Christina became Andy’s inspiration – she felt that finally, someone understood her.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline is a beautiful blend of fiction and non-fiction about Christina Olson’s life, and the inspirational and historical painting by Andrew Wyeth called Christina’s World. The Author’s Note at the end of the book is fascinating where she explains how she came to research and write this novel. She says “Ultimately, A Piece of the World is a work of fiction. Above all else, I hope I have done this story justice.” And to my mind Ms Kline, you most certainly have. A thoroughly intriguing and enjoyable read which I highly recommend.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital copy to read and review.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,164 reviews511 followers
September 19, 2017
Don't you wonder sometimes who the people in paintings were? Like Mona Lisa. She was the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, who commissioned the painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. But what do we really know about her?

It was the same mystery behind the artist Andrew Wyeth's famous painting, titled Christina's World, which draw me to this book. The book has ..kind of.. this painting as a cover. But when I realized that this novel was written by Christina Baker Kline, the author of Orphan Train, one of my favorite books ever, I was hooked and booked.

So this is the biographical, fictional tale of Chistina Olson, the real person in Wyeth's painting. It is also the history of both 1)the descendants of the notorious John Hathorne, one of the chief magistrates at the Salem Witch Trials between 1692 and 1693, 2) and the Olson House in Cushing, Maine.

Despite her undiagnosed muscular deteriorational disease, which gradually paralyzed her lower body, Christina was once in her twenties, the Persephone of Walton Hall. However, Persephone did not survive. Not in Christina's body and not in Maine. Walton Hall left his goddess of the harvests and of spring behind without a second thought. Was it the curse?

Bridget Bishop, an innkeeper accused of stealing eggs and transforming herself into a cat, put a curse on the Hathorne descendants. According to Mamey, Christina's beloved grandmother, it was not exactly a curse, more of a warning. Using the only power she possessed, Bridget Bishop instilled the fear of God into this cold-hearted, cruel man when she was sentenced to death. Some folks in Cushing suspected that the family, despite changing their name, and already almost two centuries later, have brought the witches with them. Their house was haunted. John Hothorne was still in their genes. The disability was genetic, it was later discovered.

Christina Olson, born in 1893, was a tough, proud and stubborn women. Not only was she a descendant of the Witch Trials magistrate, but also from a poor Swedish peat-farming clan, the Olausons. Johan Olauson would change his name to John Olson in America. She would become the embodiment of some of the Americans' distinctive traits: rugged individualism, quiet strength, defiance in the face of obstacles, and unremitting perseverance.

This is the story of the two Olson siblings, the last descendants living in the Olson house, and the painter who made their home his studio and them his subjects.
Here we are, the two of us, not partners but siblings, destined to live out our lives together in the house we grew up in, surrounded by the phantoms of our ancestors, haunted by the phantom lives we might’ve lived. A stack of letters hidden in a closet. A dory in the rafters of the shed. No one will ever know, when we’re gone to dust, the life we’ve shared here, our desires and our doubts, our intimacy and our solitude.
Told in beautiful prose, and with an atmospheric infusion, this book is a MUST READ.
January 29, 2021
3 stars. A quiet and melancholic novel.

This tells the story behind the inspiration of the famous painting by Andrew Wyeth titled “Christina’s World”. Christina’s family has lived in their quaint home on acres of land for generations. Christina has a physical disability with her legs which causes countless trips and falls and injuries over the years. This novel tells her story of isolation from the world — the limitations she faces physically and those she places on herself as a way of protection.

I am not sure if my high expectations spoiled this novel for me, or if it simply wasn’t a good fit. I have read two outstanding books by this author that I rated 5 stars each - “Orphan Train” and “The Exiles”. Earlier this month when I finished “The Exiles”, which is the latest release from this author, I immediately requested this backlist title from my library. Unfortunately this didn’t work out as I had hoped. I found the story to be very slow and uneventful. It lacked the pull on my emotions that I usually feel with this authors writing. Yes, it was a sad and somber story, but not one that made me cry or truly feel for the characters.

I wonder if perhaps part of my disconnect with this novel is that I do not have an appreciation for art which was a big piece of this story. I assume that readers who are interested or well versed in art, would have a stronger connection to the storyline.

Overall, I didn’t love it but I am glad I read it. I remain a huge fan of this author and look forward to what she comes out with next. Thank you to my lovely local library for the loan!
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,080 reviews7 followers
November 12, 2017
I was very excited to see this book as I really enjoyed Orphan Train. When the description mentioned that this is fictional story weaved around a true figure in a well know painting I was even more excited because I was hoping it would be as interesting as Girl with a Pearl Earring.

But sadly, this was just not my cup of tea.

I get that Christina suffered. She was a perfectly healthy child deformed by a disease – which to my untrained ears that sounded like polio – and for the rest of her life she was trapped in a useless body.

But the plot was just too thin on the ground, the characters unrelatable and the pace painfully slow.

Christina went from a lonely and stubborn child to a lonely and bitter woman who even begrudged her own siblings a life of their own. There was no hint of hope in the story, just more loneliness and bleak disappointment to look forward to. I didn’t feel engaged with the story and doubt that I will remember any of it in a month’s time.

It would have perhaps helped if I was a big fan of the famous painting Christina’s World by Andrew Wythe but I had to Google it before I knew what it looked like.

There was nothing wrong with the writing or the audio narration but not all books are for all readers and this one was not a good fit for me.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,956 reviews485 followers
March 25, 2017
Over the years, certain stories in the history of a family take hold. They're passed from generation to generation, gaining substance and meaning along the way. You have to learn to sift through them, separating fact from conjecture, the likely from the implausible.
Here is what I know: Sometimes the least believable stories are the true ones.

Well, I'm extremely grateful that I don't wear mascara because I'm a blubbering mess right now. This absolutely mesmerizing fictional memoir of Christina Olson, the real life woman in American artist, Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World" is unforgettable. Highly engrossing, I just couldn't put the book down. Even though I was sometimes frustrated with Christina's actions, never have I read a book that unveils the very centre of a person's soul.

Forgive me for my ill written review, words seem to be completely inadequate to how deeply I'm feeling about this book.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,348 reviews528 followers
November 11, 2021
What she wants most--what she truly yearns for--is what any of us want; to be seen. And look. She is.

I don't know about you, but this painting has fascinated me for years. As soon as I heard about this book by Christina Baker Kline, I knew I wanted to read it. Unfortunately it got buried in my TBR until I had the opportunity to choose a book for a Zoom book group. There is was on the list! This title was the perfect choice. My group was not large, but we had a delightful discussion about the setting in Maine, Christina the MC, and Andrew Wyeth. In the back of the book are some fascinating notes from Christina Baker Kline about the painting and her choices in writing the book. For me this was a five-star read. The ending is such a beautiful epiphany and had me grabbing for my tissues. If you have been curious about the origins of this iconic painting from the early 20th century, this is the book for you!
Profile Image for Stacey.
874 reviews161 followers
March 29, 2017
I'm afraid I'll be in the minority with my rating, but don't let that deter you from picking this up. I admire an author that can weave a story from an object. Christina is a strong, well drawn character and setting was spot on. I hadn't heard of Andrew Wyeth so researching his work was interesting. Where the book lost me was that it seemed to wane on and on and on.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,468 reviews564 followers
March 2, 2020
I had a framed print of "Christina's World" in my room as a teen and often wondered about the woman in the faded pink dress. I also imagined myself as her. Unfortunately, as depicted in this novel, Wyeth's muse is fairly dull. Christina's constricted, shallow life (mostly self-imposed) makes for an uninspiring read. I do like the setting and some of Kline's descriptions.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book485 followers
August 7, 2017
I have long been fascinated with the artwork of Andrew Wyeth, and particularly his body of work centered around Christina Olson and her rustic home in Maine. I knew, therefore, that a well constructed book about those persons would be interesting to me. For once, I got more than I anticipated. This book is marvelous.

I must say, in fairness, that this is more about Christina herself and has less to do with Andrew Wyeth or his art than I had thought it would. No problem. Christina is a complex and multidimensional person with a life worth the exploration. Crippled at an early age, she is a study in self-reliance, strength, and perseverance. She is a study, as well, in the loneliness and isolation that comes with being different.

It’s a good question. How do I think of myself? The answer surprises us both. “I think of myself as a girl,” I say.

One of the themes at the heart of this novel is the difference between how we see others and how they see themselves. Christina encounters so many people who see her as her infirmities, who discount her feeling and her intelligence because she has a broken body. Her brother sees her as his sister, who manages to take care of a home and family despite her limitations and as his playmate and sibling who has shared his life. She sees herself as a whole person, encased in a chrysalis from which there is no escape.

It is this that explains the relationship that forms between the artist and his subject:
Andy doesn’t usually bring anything, or offer to help. He doesn’t register alarm at the way we live. He doesn’t see us as a project that needs fixing. He doesn’t perch on a chair, or linger in a doorway, with the air of someone who wants to leave, who’s already halfway out the door. He just settles in and observes.

As we watch Christina’s life unfold, we see how much of it is dictated by how others see her. We watch her dream and we watch those dreams destroyed, we see windows of opportunity open and close with slams that echo like the screen doors of the old house. We watch her world collapse upon her, and yet we see her struggle to make the most of the life she is given. At the end, these words of Kline’s sum it up completely, The older I get, the more I believe that the greatest kindness is acceptance.

This novel is everything that I look for in a great novel. There are characters that are real and lives that have meaning. There is tension for these characters to transcend and obstacles to power through, and the glory of the human spirit to applaud and descry.

That this is based upon the life of an actual historic person makes it all the more poignant. I will now view Wyeth’s Christina’s World with a new layer of meaning. For as our character, Christina, says, Here is what I know: Sometimes the least believable stories are the true ones.

Profile Image for Connie G.
1,691 reviews451 followers
February 28, 2023
Andrew Wyeth spent his summers painting in Cushing, Maine and he was especially drawn to the Olson House and its occupants. Siblings Al and Christina Olson lived in their old ancestral home which had no modern conveniences--no electricity, and no indoor plumbing other than a hand pump in the kitchen. The book is named for Wyeth's famous painting "Christina's World" which depicts a field of yellowed grass and a woman in a pink dress crawling up the hill, heading toward a farmhouse in disrepair. Wyeth is showing Christina, who had a debilitating neuromuscular disease, as a woman with many qualities. Fragile, vulnerable, longing, strong, and persistent are adjectives that come to mind, and every viewer will see something different in the painting.

The book is really Christina's story written as a fictional memoir of her life with her parents, her grandmother, and three brothers. She was an intelligent girl whose dream of becoming a teacher was taken from her when her parents needed her at home to do chores in the farmhouse. Her hope of love and marriage never worked out. Christina was a resilient worker at home, caring for her sickly parents and her siblings. She always had a stubborn streak, and refused to use a wheelchair as her mobility decreased. Andrew Wyeth treated Christina with a cheerful acceptance, and his presence was welcomed by both Christina and her brother. Al and Christina had a strong sibling connection--two people facing life together under difficult circumstances, both with dreams that were never realized.

I loved Christina Baker Kline's writing in this story. The author conveys so much understanding and warmth in her complex portrayal of Christina. The book transported us to the first half of the 20th Century, to a time of simple pleasures, hard work, and the unforgettable Christina Olson. 4.5 stars.

"Christina's World" is at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City:
Profile Image for Cindy Burnett (Thoughts from a Page).
565 reviews979 followers
February 21, 2017
A Piece of this World is inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World. I am a fan of both Andrew and N.C. Wyeth’s paintings and was therefore very eager to read this book. While I love the painting Christina’s World and have seen it on display a number of times at MoMA, I never realized that Wyeth based the painting on someone he knew.

The story goes back and forth through time slowly imagining Christina’s sad story and how Andrew Wyeth came to know and paint her. Christina spent her entire life living in her family’s dilapidated farm house in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. As a young child, she developed a debilitating disease that was never diagnosed but slowly robbed her of the ability to walk and use her limbs effectively. While she was quite intelligent, her father made her leave school after eighth grade and tend to household items. She never fully got over having to abandon her education. Between the school issue, her illness, and an unhappy romance, Christina developed into a complicated and sometimes bitter woman making choices that demonstrated her acrimony. I found it hard to like her but enjoyed learning her story.

Wyeth met Christina one summer when his family was visiting Maine. They went on to develop a relationship that lasted many years. Andrew Wyeth brought out a more sympathetic side of Christina, which he immortalized in his painting. The portions of the story where Wyeth appears and interacts with both Christina and her brother Al were my favorites.

Christina Baker Kline writes a character driven novel that brings Christina’s World vividly to life. Thanks to BookBrowse and William Morrow for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine).
189 reviews223 followers
April 7, 2017
I'm proud to have been a stop on the blog tour of this book. You can read about that and all my reviews at Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine

I was immediately drawn to this book for so many reasons. I loved The Orphan Train and could not wait to read another book written by Christina Baker Kline. I love Andrew Wyeth’s work; I really could go on and on about how much I love his paintings. I’ll restrain myself though and say only that I’m unbelievably drawn to his signature color palette and his peaceful yet intense nostalgia-evoking subjects and scenery. Lastly, I love books that tell the little-known stories behind well-known people, places, and events.

A Piece of the World is the story of Christina Olson, Wyeth’s friend and muse. Christina is a very complicated woman; in turns she is stubborn, resilient, sensitive, strong, introspective, and perceptive. This story itself has obviously been meticulously researched. The scenery is beautifully rendered and made me feel as though I’d been transported to Cushing, Maine (where I am now itching to go). The author did an amazing job of blending fact and fiction into a book that I simply could not put down.

This book is special from start to finish but the thing that about it that really struck me was how the story was told. Many books are written in first person but few convey the enormous sense of intimacy found in A Piece of the World. The reader is made to feel as though they are Christina’s trusted confidant.

“Closing my eyes, I lean over the side, the salt spray on my face mingling with tears. I weigh the shell in my palm – this cameo shell that has no place with the others. A store-bought trinket with no history, no story. I knew, deep down, when he gave it to me that he didn’t understand anything about me."

I was expecting to read an interesting story about Christina’s relationship with Wyeth but this book is so much more than that. It’s really an exploration of the life of a woman who, faced with many challenges, is determined to remain true to herself. It was a very emotional read for me and one I’ll not soon forget.

Many thanks to HarperCollins/William Morrow for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,492 reviews9 followers
April 12, 2017
A Piece of the World examines Christina's World, both her life on a farming ranch in Maine and the painting by that name by her friend Andrew Wyeth. Christina's movement is restricted by a crippling disease she was born with that only worsens as she gets older. Her world is restricted by a strict father who makes her quit school at 12, even though she exhibits brilliance, because she is needed to do chores. Later her heart is broken by a Harvard man and her place is pretty set. She becomes set in her ways as she and her brother run the farm and their parents are no more. Wyeth, at first a bothersome distraction, becomes a dear friend who with his wife understands Christina better than anyone. When he asks her to go outside in her best dress to sit for the painting that would make him famous, and her an enigma, she is hesitant but trusting. Later she tells him:

You showed what no one else could see.... There she is, that girl, on a planet of grass. Her wants are simple. To tilt her face to the sun and feel it's warmth. To clutch the earth beneath her fingers. To escape from, and return to, the house she was born in. To see her life from a distance.... This is a girl who has lived through broken dreams and promises; still lives, will always live on that hillside.... Her world is both circumscribed and boundless....

I felt the writer described Christina so perfectly there, with her introspection and frustrations, yet her endurance and love for what she sees around her. Christina enjoyed reading Willa Cather, and therein lies her true self. Such a lovely depiction, in more ways than one. A lovely, atmospheric listening experience.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,275 reviews558 followers
May 4, 2017
This is a book that is the polar opposite of the grit. action packed 1000 under character hip and modern tome that holds 18 separate levels of criminal behavior or DSM5 quantity labeled conditions. Does that mean that all the characters are apple pie mode norms? No.

But it does mean that they are often peaceful, gentle, apt to comply and assist, and are also hard working norms for their lives' era. Nearly all of these humans in this piece of the world are. And doubly so are the 3 main protagonists: Christina Olsen, her brother Al and Andy Wyeth.

What a breath of fresh air. And the "point" placement in Cushing, Maine amid the periods of the late 19th and first half of the 20th century were superbly detailed.

Work, work, work. So much of common life was all about it. Before electricity and central heating- it was a group activity of hour after hour. You slept when the sun went down or close on after. Never done. Like milking the cows on a dairy farm is (even today). That's what most people of this particular era never really "get", IMHO. And why so many books about the privileged in those eras and before those eras are almost entirely "revised" in today's "eyes". Because even they, in toilet, bath, cleanliness, diet and much more had far more toil and procedure to the minute by minute. And why, even with endless and progressive numbers of servants, it was not any surety to maintain a consistent period of health and energy for "else" than work.

Christina was different to the others of her generation in her ailment. But common and usual in the dictates that ruled her life's decisions. Many of them were made from circumstance and necessity. And rejection and leaving were the largest opposite alternatives.

This book denotes a life of service. Most will interpret it as sad. I interpret it as strength. She had immense strength in resisting destructive medicine and recognizing it for what it was. That makes her an outlier from the get-go.

But this author also gives you the wonderful gift of seeing a life of service and work in eyes that reflect the lessons of core quality that it gave. Not just to Christina. Where some would see waste. I see superlative growth, honor, integrity and especially ability to embed in the essence of surround and nature. You get that in the ultimate product of that well known Wyeth painting too. She is planted.

Not sad. Triumphant!

It lost a star for me only in the switching time periods. The earliest years in this book made me think of my German grandmother and I actually dreamt about her. She was the oldest of 10 and only the first and last were girls. Even on the very day of her Confirmation/Graduation she had to take her one good dress off after the procession down the mountain and wash clothes in tubs. She told me stories constantly and NEVER in any mood of ire or resentment either. She lived until 99 and was a gorgeous 18 when WWI started. She lost all her brothers but 1 in both wars. One of her brothers was the mayor and was taken to the town square and shot when the Nazi's took over. Her youngest brother was a Nazi Youth who died in a Russian prison after they cut off his leg- he was less than 20. They were all tall blondes and Hollywood stunning looking people- I have their photo as a group done in 1914. She was tiny and had dark hair and was BEAUTIFUL. So she was always their "schwarzy".

She had a personality almost exactly like Christine- she had terrible asthma until she moved to the USA in her late 30's. She also was ALWAYS the "sickly" one. It took 8 years (separated from husband during that entire time) to get into America. Even after getting permission papers she was set "off the boat" twice for being underweight and "lung" afflicted. And she held nearly an exact fortitude to Christine's in this book. Never "poor me" but always moving slowly, despite the "falls". And as kind too. Always. It never fails to amaze me how some authors can bring back people in "real" life to their readers. This one sure did.

This book holds no foul language and is slow and filled with quite and often introverted people. If you want action packed or traveling extrovert shenanigans, this will not be the book for you. You may find it boring.

The point that many people do NOT roam much from their origins or own natural personality is also a point to take in this book. Why and how it was and less often is now, but does occur. Time passes and some people will continue to layer their own hurts and contentment capacity. Both.
Profile Image for Stephanie Anze.
657 reviews112 followers
April 20, 2017
Christina´s World
By Andrew Wyeth 1948
"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 me. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming like a secret that won´t stay hidden."

Christina Olson is born in Cushing, Maine on the family farm. Ailed by an unknown disease, Christina progressively losses her mobilty but adamantly refuses a wheelchair. When she receives an unexpected visit from her friend Betsy and a man that asks if he can sketch her house, she agrees. Soon she is introduced to Andrew Wyeth and the two of them strike up a friendship. Unknown to Christina, she, her brother Al and the house itself become a great source of inspiration for Wyeth. Its through his eyes that Christina can finally be truly seen.

Based on Andrew Wyeth´s "Christina´s World", this novel chronicles the life of Christina Olson (the woman of the painting). Considered one of the best known American paintings of the mid twenty century and one of Andrew Wyeth´s most prominent works, this painting served as the background. Wyeth and Chrsitina became close friends. Him being to see Christina in a different light. Due in large part to her ailment, Christina was rough around the edges, stubborn and somewhat difficult. But what stands out about her is her determination and strength. Even as her mobility declined, she continued her work on the farm. The strokes on Wyeth´s canvas matches the lyrical prose of Kline. Kline seamlessly combines fact and fiction to produce an evocative work. Rich in details and heart, this novel was beautifully written. Christina´s life was difficult and complicated but what Wyeth ultimately displays on the canvas and Kline on her pages is the beauty of her strength.
Profile Image for DJ Sakata.
3,036 reviews1,747 followers
February 25, 2018
Favorite Quotes:

Sometimes a sanctuary, sometimes a prison, that house on the hill has always been my home. I’ve spent my life yearning toward it, wanting to escape it, paralyzed by its hold on me. (There are many ways to be crippled, I’ve learned over the years, many forms of paralysis.) … You can never escape the bonds of family history, no matter how far you travel. And the skeleton of a house can carry in its bones the marrow of all that came before.

It is a terrible thing to find the love of your life, Christina… You know too well what you’re missing when it’s gone.

The day we bury her is dreary: a colorless sky, gray-boned trees, old sooty snow. Winter, I think, must be tired of itself.

… I put my hand over his, and he lays his other hand over mine. I feel the way I do when I lose something – a spool of thread, say – and search for it everywhere, only to discover it in an obvious place, like on the sideboard under the cloth.

My Review:

This was my first exposure to Christina Baker Kline’s talents and I became an instant devotee. The writing was emotive and often tinged with melancholy, lushly descriptive, thoughtfully observant, cunningly crafted, and intricately detailed. A fascinating mix of fact and fiction, I have since spent far too much time Googling Christina Olson and Andrew Wyeth’s iconic artwork. I was immediately immersed in this beautifully and insightfully written book from the first person POV of Christina, a girl/woman with few options and limited mobility. Christina lived her entire life in the same house with her slightly odd family in small-town rural Maine and had continued to live under extremely harsh conditions without indoor plumbing, running water, or electricity, long after others in her area were enjoying these luxuries.

Christina was possibly the most obstinate woman of her time. Unsteady on her weak limbs following an life-threatening and undiagnosed illness at the age of three, she despised pity, denied most offers of assistance despite frequent mishaps and injuries from falls, refused to seek medical assistance when offered, and in her later years when her legs were no longer of use to her she steadfastly refused to use a wheelchair and drug herself by her elbows, up and down stairs and even across fields to visit her neighbor. I ached for her and wanted to pop her in the back of the head at the same time for her stubborn pride.
Profile Image for Libby.
581 reviews157 followers
March 22, 2018
“In this age of chattering, I think we need to pause for monotony – with something smoldering in the middle of it. So much can be said by so little. I think great simplicity is complex. To my mind the master is the one who can give the effect of great simplicity and breath and yet you can go right up to it and enjoy it.”
Andrew Wyeth, from Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life, by Richard Meryman

‘A Piece Of The World’ by Christina Baker Kline takes place in Cushing, Maine between the years 1896 to 1948. The central character and narrator of our tale is Christina Olson. Around the age of three, Christina gets a mysterious fever after which she develops a progressive muscular disorder. She is the oldest of four; she has three brothers, Alvaro, Sam, and Fred. Mamey, her maternal grandmother also lives with the family, in a house that has been in Mamey’s family for many generations.

Kline’s novel reflects the hardscrabble and rough living that a farm life in Maine entailed. No electricity. No plumbing except for a hand pump. Going to bed with the chickens and getting up with the roosters. No store bought dresses. No entertainment except for what one could create on one’s own or with siblings. The rare social event. Home, landscape, and family was ‘Christina’s World.’

In 1939, Betsy James aged 17, a friend of Christina’s introduces Christina and Alvaro to Andrew Wyeth aged 22. Andrew’s family have a summer place close by, and Andrew wants to paint the Olson house. Andrew’s dad is N. C. Wyeth, a famous illustrator. Andrew visits over many summer before and after his marriage to Betsy and Christina and Alvaro become subjects in his paintings. The most famous one would become his painting known as ‘Christina’s World.’ It is a picture of the Olson house and barn on the horizon with Christina in the foreground with the details of Christina’s hair and all the blades of grass sharply rendered. Christina’s face is turned away from the observer, so the details of her thin arms and fragile body are more perceptible. Andrew Wyeth’s style of art became known as realism.

There are a lot of similarities between Andrew Wyeth’s art and the way Kline wrote her book. His art is realism and even though this is a work of fiction, Kline sticks with historical facts. Although Kline did not know Christina Olson, I found her character, a character with a debilitating disorder, to be very credible. When Christina was older and her disease had progressed even more, she crawled wherever she needed to go in her home. She thought of a wheelchair as succumbing to a weakness. I find that a totally odd way to think, but it’s as good a way as any to describe how a person who insists on crawling everywhere instead of sitting in a wheelchair to move around more easily, might think. I didn’t always agree with Christina’s choices, but I understood them.

I had a cousin who had polio. She was in an iron lung for awhile and died as a teenager. Although, I was young, I remember her walls plastered with posters of Michael Landon and other teen idols of that time period. Her parents could not always be with her during the time she spent in an iron lung. How isolating and traumatic that must have been! Sheila had a lot of fortitude just as Christina in this novel does.

This is a very understated novel. If you’re looking for thriller and suspense, don’t come here. You won’t find it. Yet, there’s something simply beautiful about these lives. I think the art of Wyeth and the story of the picture lend it a beauty, I might not otherwise find. I had seen the picture, ‘Christina’s World’ before, but I had no idea of its history. Neither did I know the reason for the young woman’s position on the ground was due to her disability. Kline’s language is mostly simple and straightforward, but somehow, just like Wyeth’s art, she manages to convey complexity. Here’s an example.

“I read once that the act of observing changes the nature of what is observed. This is certainly true for Al and me. We are more attuned to the beauty of this old house, with its familiar corners, when Andy is here. More appreciative of the view down the yellow fields to the water, constant and yet ever changing, the black crows on the barn roof, the hawk circling overhead. A grain bag, a dented pail, a rope hanging from a rafter:”

Just as Wyeth’s art gives a greater appreciation of the enjoyment of nature, the idealized pastoral, Kline’s writing does the same. In our time of constant bombardment and stimulation, this is a refreshing book and a good way to slow down and be present.
Profile Image for Jackie Ullerich.
Author 6 books126 followers
March 1, 2018
Read this for book club. Received very favorably.

I was hooked on this novel. Heartbreaking, yet enlightening. The writing is fluid and beautiful. Although this is fiction, it reads like non-fiction. The romance adds an important element that keeps you wondering, and then...

Truly a pleasure to read.

Profile Image for Pam Jenoff.
Author 35 books5,159 followers
February 10, 2017
I was fortunate enough to have an early read of this forthcoming book by the author of Orphan Train and it is terrific. It is a re-imagining of the life of the young girl who inspired Andrew Wyeth's painting Christina's World. A must-read for winter/spring!
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