New Fiction: A Piece of the World – Christine Baker Kline

The author of the blockbuster novel Orphan Train delivers another insightful look into American life, in this case reimagining the life of Christina Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting Christina’s World.

That painting has been called “an American Mona Lisa.” In it Christina Olson’s enigmatic pose hints at the inner life which Kline’s novel illuminates. Born to a farm family in Maine, Olson hopes to become a teacher but is kept home by her family to work on the farm. And the pose she strikes in the painting takes on a special poignancy when the reader learns that the Christina in the picture has been crippled by polio. That disability became part of her bond with the younger Wyeth who had difficulty walking.

The advance reviews are very strong. That the book is both an Indie Next Pick and a LibraryReads pick prefigures much wider consumer support at on sale. Parade.com has already done a cover reveal and offered a sneak-peak excerpt.

People named it Book  of the Week, calling “beautifully observed.” Other reviews at on sale are scheduled in USA Today and the NYTBR.

“[T]old from Christina’s point of view, from the moment she reflects on the painting; it then goes back and forth through her history, from her childhood through the time that Wyeth painted at her family farm, using its environs and Christina and her brother as subjects. First encountering Christina as a middle-aged woman, Wyeth saw something in her that others did not. Their shared bond of physical infirmity (she had undiagnosed polio; he had a damaged right foot and bad hip) enables her to open up about her family and her difficult life, primarily as a shut-in, caring for her family, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and doing laundry….Through it all, the author’s insightful, evocative prose brings Christina’s singular perspective and indomitable spirit to life.”
Publishers Weekly

The figure at the center of Andrew Wyeth’s celebrated painting Christina’s World has her back to the viewer, but Kline turns her to face the reader, simultaneously equipping her with a back story and a lyrical voice….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 ceaseless domestic workload….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…Kline’s reading group–friendly novel delivers a character portrait that is painterly, sensuous, and sympathetic.”
Kirkus

 A piece of the World is a graceful, moving and powerful demonstration of what can happen when a fearless literary imagination combines with an inexhaustible curiosity about the past and the human heart: a feat of time travel, a bravura improvisation on the theme of art history, a wonderful story that seems to have been waiting, all this time, for Christina Baker Kline to come along and tell it.”
— Michael Chabon

“This is a novel that does what Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting does: it renders a whole universe of love and longing inside a seemingly simple scene. By focusing on this one particular piece of the world, Christina Baker Kline has accomplished something grand. This is a gorgeous novel, both heartbreaking and life-affirming.”
— Nathan Hill

A Piece of the World (9780062356260) by Christina Baker Kline. $27.99 hardcover. 2/21/17 one day laydown.