Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A PIECE OF THE WORLD by Christina Baker Kline

Before reading this book, I was not familiar with Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting, “Christina’s World.”  This novel provides a backstory for Christina, the woman on the ground in the forefront of the painting.  Seen from behind, she is looking at a farmhouse, perhaps with longing, but we can’t see her face.  We learn in the novel that Christina is disabled and ultimately loses the ability walk, as the years wear on.  She is a stubborn woman, refusing a medical examination on multiple occasions.  I found this intransigence to be more telling about her personality than just about anything else.  I believe that her affliction gives her a sense of identity and uniqueness that she does not want to lose.  Her only opportunity for escaping her hard life on the farm is the attention of a young man who ultimately goes to Harvard and probably does not want to be married to a woman whose father forced her to quit school at the age of twelve.  When Christina is middle-aged, a friend becomes involved with Andrew Wyeth, who begins making regular visits to Christina’s home, which she shares with a younger brother.  Wyeth paints a number of various seemingly uninteresting objects in the house but brings a breath of fresh air to Christina’s otherwise dreary life.  The fact that someone who has lived her entire life in one place, rarely venturing beyond the boundaries of the Maine farm, should be immortalized in a painting known the world over is ironic but not uncommon.  What is uncommon is that in this case we don’t see the subject’s face.  This novel makes Christina human and reveals a bitter and lonely woman behind that hidden face.

No comments: