By Christina Baker Kline. A young girl whose world is a simple family farm comes to life in a famous painting and now in a novel.
Story: Diane Dean
“A Piece of the World” by Christina Baker Kline brought life to a well-known painting by Andrew Wyeth entitled, “Christina’s World.” Those attending the Bookworm Book Club had a variety of opinions and impressions of the book, the characters, the author, and the artist.
“This novel is about an artist, a strong-spirited woman, and the small town in Maine that contained their relationship. Christina’s world was limited; Andrew Wyeth opened it to the world,” says Barbara Fisler of the Village of Amelia.
Shari Griefner and I were facilitators, presenting background of the Wyeth family, the Christina Olson home, now a historic landmark, the Farnsworth Art Museum of Wyeth art, and the culture of a sparse Maine existence. Shari portrayed the author being interviewed, offering explanations of her interest in Maine, the painting, and her life.
“It is a story of struggle and pain for a woman overcoming great odds to live her life the way she wanted to live it,” says Dorothy Green, Village of Sunset Pointe.
Shari then took the role of Christina Olson and offered the main character’s thoughts on circumstances and choices in the book.
“This book is a fascinating look at Christina Olson, the woman portrayed in Andrew Wyeth’s painting.” says Betty Eich, Village of Mira Mesa. “Why did she live in that house without modern conveniences her whole life? Was the house her haven or her prison? The book also gives insight into Wyeth, the nature and purpose of his art. I highly recommend it.”
Christina’s education ended at age 12 when her father insisted she tend to housekeeping duties for the family. Her infirmity from Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome, a degenerative condition that damages nerves in the arms and legs and has no cure, made it difficult.
Sharon McHenry, Village of Summerhill, says: “This story is a reminder to us all that there are those who struggle with great mental and physical challenges. They manage to not only persevere, but to live with strength and grace.”
“I felt sorry for Christina and all the sacrifices she made for her family despite her infirmity,” says Mary Jo Johnson, Village of Ashland.
Appreciation of poetry was an element in the book. Betty recited Emily Dickinson’s poems “I’m Nobody, Who Are You” and “My Letter to the World that Never Wrote to Me.” Those, along with Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “Chambered Nautilus,” illustrated the confines of Christina’s world, allowing the group to consider “the labels we put on people, the life choices we make, and the decisions everybody faces in life,” says Linda Evans, Village of Chatham.
The now-famous painting, an inspiration for the story, allowed readers to see the world of Christina Olson. The book concludes, “She wanted to be seen, and she is.”