Book Notes – A Piece of the World

The older I get, the more I believe that the greatest kindness is acceptance ~ Christina Baker Kline

This weekender of a historical fiction came to me as the unexpected benefit of mall-walking to beat the heat. It was in the branch library freebies-box, in large-print no less (388 pages). Not being much of a contemporary fiction reader, I was unfamiliar with Christina Baker Kline, who wrote the NYT bestseller Orphan Train, but I can see why she’s popular: vivid images, succinctly drawn, with heart. Her prose is sparse, a bit too sparse for my taste, but I love the backstory she paints to one of America’s favorite works of art, Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth. Here the nagging questions posed by the haunting scene are all laid to rest—how a girlish, crippled spinster came to be living in semi-isolation; why she drags herself through the grass with resolute pride; and perhaps most importantly, why she allowed herself to be captured on canvas after a lifetime of eschewing attention.

Baker Kline knows coastal Maine where the story is set. The sun-bleached Olson House that tourists still visit today is like a patriarch ensnaring Christina and her brother Alvaro for a lifetime of sacrifice. For as Baker Kline says in the prologue, the skeleton of a house can carry in its bones the marrow of all that came before. For a peek at the exterior of this 14-room colonial farmhouse, check out this brief video featuring Christina’s nephew John, who is also a minor character in the story.