Thanks to TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review!
I was SO excited for this one! I fell in love with Christina Baker Kline when I read Orphan Train last year. I reviewed it just recently, ahead of reading her new novel, A Piece of the World.
Before I say anything else, I have to tell you that this is a wonderful novel! If you read and liked Orphan Train or if you enjoy stories of rural American life before running water and electricity, definitely pick this one up.
A Piece of the World was inspired by a piece of art – Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World:
According to MoMA.org:
The woman crawling through the tawny grass was the artist’s neighbor in Maine, who, crippled by polio, “was limited physically but by no means spiritually.” Wyeth further explained, “The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless.” He recorded the arid landscape, rural house, and shacks with great detail, painting minute blades of grass, individual strands of hair, and nuances of light and shadow. In this style of painting, known as magic realism, everyday scenes are imbued with poetic mystery.
Poetic mystery is right! I find this painting almost sort of…haunting. Her emaciated arms, how she’s lying in the grass, the rural setting, and the old buildings really are awe-inspiring to me. There’s such a story here – a story that Kline saw and was inspired by for this novel.
In my humble opinion, she did the story behind the painting justice. I fell in love with the main character, Christina. She is strong despite her weakened body and strong-willed despite her life’s difficulties, yet Kline uncovers her innermost thoughts and feelings that are not always so strong and sure of herself. Her life is no cakewalk, as she’s expected to work to keep up the family farm in rural Maine, despite difficulty in moving around.
As the novel progresses and her body becomes more difficult to move, our heroine’s mood becomes as dissipated as her muscles. Kline does a great job at jumping back and forth in time, from older Christina to her child/early 20’s self. She becomes stuck in a lot of ways: stuck keeping the house up, stuck inside her own body, and just generally stuck in life. When the young painter, Andrew Wyeth, shows up, though, life gets just a little bit more interesting.
I don’t want to give too much away about the story, because I think you should read it, fair reader! The only real criticism I have is that much of the novel is sort of a downer. While I was reading it, I was thinking “man, is there any happiness in this book?”, but when I got to the ending, I appreciated all of that sadness and difficulty…it just made sense with the ending. I also don’t think the novel would do justice to the painting without that struggle.
In conclusion, I definitely recommend this one! 4 solid stars.