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A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

I saw A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline sitting on the bookshelf at the library.  I liked the cover, so I decided to check it out, having no idea that the book was about the famous artist Andrew Wyeth and his painting, Christina’s World.  (If I’m to be honest, I had never even heard of Andrew Wyeth before.)  At first, I felt a bit lost without knowing the background, but in the end, I really enjoyed this book by the author who wrote Orphan Train, another book that was one of my favorites.

About A Piece of the World

This book alternates between Christina’s youth and her time spent with Andrew Wyeth.  Her time with Andrew Wyeth didn’t interest me that much, though it probably would have if I had known of him and his work.  However, the part about Christina Olson’s youth kept me reading.

Christina’s Youth

Christina was born with a lame leg.  She has a hard time walking, and when she’s six, her father wants to take her to a specialist.  She’s terrified, and even though she consents to the six hour wagon ride, when she gets to the specialist’s office, she refuses to get out of the wagon.  Her father is furious.

Over the years, her impediment grows worse.  However, she’s still bright and attractive enough that when a family friend brings by a friend, Walton, he’s immediately interested in her.  Christina and Walton date all through the summer until Walton head for Harvard.  For the next four years, they correspond through letters during the school year and spend each summer together.  Christina hopes that they will have a life together, but her dreams are dashed.

Christina’s Life with Andrew Wyeth

After her dreams of life with Walton end, Christina shuts herself off and immerses herself in caring for her family–her mother, father, and three brothers.  Two of her brothers leave the family farm, but Christina and Al remaining, caring for the farm and their elderly family.

Meanwhile, Christina’s disability continues to worsen.  She’s too proud to use a wheelchair, but she regularly falls when she tries to get around.  In the end, when she wants to visit a friend’s house or even climb the steps to her bedroom, she must do so by dragging herself on her arms, dragging her semi-useless legs behind her.

Andrew Wyeth meets Christina and Al and is fascinated with them and their way of life.  (Even though it’s now the 1940s, Christina and Al still don’t have running water or electricity in the home.)  He spends every summer working in the upper stories of the home, painting the land, the farm house, Christina, and Al.

My Thoughts on A Piece of the World

This is a fascinating, sad glimpse into one woman’s life.  I wonder how her life would be different if her father hadn’t been so cold and aloof or if she hadn’t been so stubborn and proud.  Yet, those very features are likely what made her difficult existence possible.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.

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