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.

Update: Happy Birthday Orphan Train!

In two weeks we’ll celebrate the one year anniversary of Orphan Train. In an age where publishers and authors fight to get books more than a couple weeks of attention, this is the kind of experience every author (and publisher) hopes for. Published in trade paper on April 2, 2013, this affecting historical novel started with admiring advance reviews. After a steady garnering of fans, it landed on Indie bestseller lists all over the country. It first hit the NYT bestseller list five months after publication. Eleven months after the original on sale date this March sees it at #1 on the NYT paperback list!

It’s a book club favorite, has been a community reads pick, and is being adopted for high school reading. Kline has spoken in bookstores and libraries all over the country as well as to adoption, foster care and teen support groups. She’s continuing an active schedule of book signings and other appearances in support of the book.

Bookstores, feel free to post any of this content to your social media as we approach the first anniversary of one of the bestselling novels in the U.S.

Finally, there’s rumor that a one year Anniversary book club sweepstakes is coming with the prize being a trip to NYC to visit the Tenement Museum, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. More on that as I learn the details.

Orphan Train (9780061950728) by Christina Baker Kline. $14.99 trade paper original.4/2/13 on sale. 

New Trade Paper Original: Orphan Train – Christina Baker Kline

Kline wrote a really lovely novel back in 2009 called Bird in Hand (9780060798901; $13.99 trade paperback). Of that book PW said “[Kline’s] unflinching gaze and lovely prose sets it apart from the herd of infidelity/marital ennui novels. It’s well-done, thoughtful and thought-provoking.” I’ve been looking forward to her next novel ever since and I was not disappointed. This well plotted novel that draws from the story of the Orphan Train is likely to appeal to readers of books like Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone.

Kline’s absorbing new novel is a heartfelt page-turner about two women finding a sense of home. Seventeen-year-old Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer has spent most of her life in foster care. When she’s caught stealing a copy of Jane Eyre from the library, in an effort to keep the peace with her stressed foster parents, she ends up cleaning out elderly Vivian Daly’s attic. Molly learns that Vivian was herself an orphan, an Irish immigrant in New York who was put on the Orphan Train in the late 1920s and tossed from home to home in Minnesota. The growing connection leads Molly to dig deeper into Vivian’s life, which allows Molly to discover her own potential and helps Vivian rediscover someone she believed had been lost to her forever. Chapters alternate between Vivian’s struggle to find a safe home, both physically and emotionally, in early 20th-century Minnesota, and Molly’s similar struggle in modern-day Maine. Kline lets us live the characters’ experiences vividly through their skin, and even the use of present tense, which could distract, feels suited to this tale. The growth from instinct to conscious understanding to partnership between the two is the foundation for a moving tale.” – Publishers Weekly

“Kline draws a dramatic, emotional story from a neglected corner of American history. A deeply emotional story drawn from the shadows.” —Kirkus 

Orphan Train (9780061950728) by Christina Baker Kline. $14.99 trade paper original.4/2/13 on sale.