“A Piece of the World,” historical fiction by Christina Baker Kline, is the story of real-life Christina Olsen, who was the inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth’s famous yet haunting 1948 painting “Christina’s World.” A photo of the painting is included in the back of the novel. It is a painting of a woman in a pink dress reclining in a field, a farmhouse in the distance. This painting currently hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Kline has taken her research about Wyeth and Olsen and spun it into a novel that easily intertwines facts with fiction. Olsen lived her entire life on her family’s remote farm in Cushing, Maine. She suffered from degenerative muscular disease that progressed with age leaving her unable to walk.
The author of this engaging book creates a character in Christina that is tender but tragic. Kline has Christina narrate her life, traveling back and forth in time, making the book akin to a fictional memoir. Through Olsen’s memories, generations of her family come to life, making this book seem real, biographical.
I could not put this book down and have stared at the photo in back numerous times. I believe Andrew Wyeth caught the agony and the strength of Christina Olsen as she dealt with her affliction. The characters in this book will stay with you long after you finish reading.