Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Christina Baker Kline, A PIECE OF THE WORLD

This is one of the best historical fiction novels I've read all year. Told in first person, it is the purported memoir of Christina Olson, from the painting *Christina's World* by Andrew Wyeth. The narrative shifts back and forth between Christina's early life (late 1800s through WWI) and her later life, after Wyeth appears and takes up unofficial residence at the small, rather hardscrabble farm in Maine that Christina shares with her brother Al. Exploring themes of loss and resilience, betrayal and loyalty within a family, and the relationships among art and labor and intimacy, this book is an immersive, nuanced reflection on a woman's life.

Kline reflects in the afterword that she spent years sitting in front of the painting, researching, visiting Maine, speaking with people who knew Christina Olson and those in her life, and it shows in the tightness of the story, the clarity of the images, and the distinct voices of the characters. (IMHO, this is Kline's best novel.) Highly recommend.

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