"Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden."
To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.
As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.
Engaging the Past: Christina Baker Kline and Amor Towles
Wednesday April 5, 2017
Inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting Christina’s World, Christina Baker Kline’s (Orphan Train) new novel A Piece of the World brings into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait. Kline discussed what motivated her to capture this story with Amor Towles. Towles is author of two bestselling historical novels—Rules of Civility, which recreates Greenwich Village in the late 1930's, and A Gentleman in Moscow, set in Moscow's famed hotel The Metropol.
Christina Baker Kline is the author of five novels. Her most recent novel, Orphan Train, has spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list, including five weeks at # 1, and has been published in 38 countries. More than 100 communities and colleges have chosen it as a “One Book, One Read” selection. Her other novels include The Way Life Should Be, Sweet Water, Bird in Hand, and Desire Lines. Her new novel, A Piece of the World, based on the iconic painting Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth, will be published in March 2017.
In addition to her five novels, Kline has written and edited five nonfiction books. She commissioned and edited two widely praised collections or original essays on the frist year of parenthood and raising young children, Child of Mine and Room to Grow, and a book on grieving, Always Too Soon. She is the coeditor, with Anne Burt, of a collection of personal essays called About Face: Women Write About What They See When They Look in the Mirror, and is co-author, with her mother, Christina Looper Baker, of a book on feminist mothers and daughters, The Conversation Begins. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle,Money, More, Psychology Today, among other places.
Kline was born in Cambridge, England, and raised there as well as in the American South and Maine. She is a graduate of Yale, Cambridge, and the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing. She has taught fiction and nonfiction writing, poetry, English literature, literary theory, and women’s studies at Yale, NYU, and Drew University, and served as Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University for four years. She is a recipient of several Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowships and Writer-in-Residence Fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She supports a number of libraries and other associations in New Jersey and Maine, and is a member of the Advisory Board for Roots & Wings, a nonprofit that provides support for at-risk adolescent and aged-out foster care youth.
Kline lives in an old house in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, David Kline, and three sons, Hayden, Will, and Eli. She spends as much time as possible in an even older house in Southwest Harbor, Maine.
Amor Towles was born and raised just outside Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale University and received an MA in English from Stanford University. For many years a principal at an investment firm in Manhattan, he now devotes himself full time to writing. His first novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. Towles lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.
Mr. Towles is an ardent fan of early 20th century painting, 1950’s jazz, 1970’s cop shows, rock & roll on vinyl, manifestoes, breakfast pastries, pasta, liquor, snow-days, Tuscany, Provence, Disneyland, Hollywood, the cast of Casablanca, 007, Captain Kirk, Bob Dylan (early, mid, and late phases), the wee hours, card games, cafés, and the cookies made by both of his grandmothers.