Today, I am recommending A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline—a novel of historical fiction that imagines, through extensive research, the life of Anna Christina Olson—the subject of the painting Christina’s World by artist Andrew Wyeth. This mysterious painting—of a young woman in a field, looking off into the distance towards a stark wood-framed house—has been a part of the Museum of Modern Art’s collection since 1949, and has become one of the most recognized images of American Art.
Christina, as she was known, grew up on a seaside farm in South Cushing, Maine. She was struck by a mysterious and degenerative illness at the age of three that made it almost impossible for her to walk. Despite her infirmities, she attended school and had hopes of becoming a teacher, but because of her ailing parents and duty to her family, her father made her quit school to help run the household.
In this novel, Kline vividly details the day-to-day struggles of living in rural Maine without electricity—a challenge for any able-bodied person, and harshly unforgiving to Christina’s condition. Along with her brother, Alvaro—who gave up his own dreams to run the family farm, Christina never moved away from her family home.
At the age of 46, Christina met artist Andrew Wyeth through her friendship with his wife, Betsy--who had become one of Christina’s only friends. Visiting the Olson home daily during the summers, he set up a studio in an upstairs room, and saw in Christina—without pity, what others in her life hadn’t—a stubborn and determined woman of indomitable spirit.
Check out A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline and other character-driven novels like it at the Sioux City Public Library.
Support for Check It Out comes from Avery Brothers.