A Piece of the World
Goodreads ratings
3.86 / 5

"A Piece of the World" Summary

By Christina Baker Kline

historical fiction | 320 pages | Published in 2017

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World."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.Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

"A Piece of the World" by Christina Baker Kline is a novel that tells the story of the woman in Andrew Wyeth's famous painting, "Christina's World."


"A Piece of the World" by Christina Baker Kline is a compelling historical fiction novel that offers a fictionalized glimpse into the life of Christina Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth's iconic painting "Christina's World." Set in the early 20th century, the novel masterfully weaves together art, history, and human relationships to create a poignant and immersive narrative.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story unfolds in the rural town of Cushing, Maine, and follows the life of Christina Olson, a woman living with a degenerative muscular condition that gradually limits her mobility. The narrative is interspersed with flashbacks to Christina's childhood and adolescence, offering insights into her family dynamics, aspirations, and the impact of her physical condition on her life.


The novel predominantly takes place in the Olson family farm in Cushing, Maine, capturing the essence of rural life in the early 20th century. The landscape, characterized by its rugged beauty and harsh climate, becomes an integral part of the story, influencing the characters' experiences and interactions.

Main Characters

The novel features several key characters who play significant roles in Christina's life:

Christina OlsonThe protagonist, a resilient and introspective woman whose life becomes intertwined with the painter, Andrew Wyeth.
Andrew WyethA talented artist who develops a deep connection with Christina and ultimately paints the iconic masterpiece, "Christina's World."
Alvaro OlsonChristina's brother, who shares a complex and tumultuous relationship with her, shaped by familial responsibilities and personal aspirations.
Walton OlsonChristina's father, a hardworking farmer deeply rooted in tradition, whose influence shapes Christina's worldview and choices.

Summary of Different Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-5

The narrative introduces the readers to Christina Olson, her family, and the rural landscape of Cushing, Maine. It delves into Christina's early life, exploring her relationships with her family, particularly her complex dynamics with her brother Alvaro, and the impact of her physical condition on her aspirations.

Chapter 6-10

Andrew Wyeth, a visiting artist, enters Christina's life, and a compelling connection develops between the two characters. The novel delves into the evolving dynamics between Christina and Andrew, as well as the influence of the landscape on both characters' perspectives.

Chapter 11-15

The narrative delves into the emotional and psychological complexities of Christina's world, her struggles with her condition, and the tensions within her family. The author skillfully portrays the intricate layers of human emotions and the interplay of personal and artistic aspirations.

Chapter 16-20

As the relationship between Christina and Andrew deepens, the novel delves into the artistic process, capturing the essence of creativity and the transformative power of art. The narrative also navigates the complexities of family dynamics, personal sacrifices, and the enduring impact of relationships.

Chapter 21-25

The story reaches its poignant climax as Christina and Andrew's bond is tested, and the emotional resonance of the iconic painting "Christina's World" is intertwined with the characters' lives. The novel skillfully intertwines the past and present, offering profound insights into human resilience and the enduring power of art.

Main Events

  • Christina's childhood experiences shape her resilience and introspection.
  • Andrew Wyeth's arrival in Cushing marks a significant turning point in Christina's life.
  • The evolution of the relationship between Christina and Andrew becomes a central focus of the narrative.
  • The creation of the iconic painting "Christina's World" becomes a transformative moment for both characters.
  • Tensions within Christina's family and her internal struggles with her condition drive the emotional core of the story.

Themes and Insights


  1. Resilience and Perseverance: The novel explores the indomitable spirit of Christina Olson, portraying her resilience in the face of physical limitations and emotional challenges.
  2. Art and Inspiration: Through the character of Andrew Wyeth and the creation of "Christina's World," the novel delves into the transformative power of art and the profound impact of creative expression.
  3. Family and Relationships: The dynamics within Christina's family and her evolving relationship with Andrew offer rich insights into the complexities of familial bonds and human connections.
  4. Identity and Self-Discovery: Christina's journey towards self-acceptance and understanding forms a central theme, offering poignant reflections on identity and personal growth.


The novel provides a nuanced portrayal of the human experience, delving into the complexities of resilience, creativity, and the enduring impact of relationships. It offers profound insights into the transformative power of art and the indelible influence of personal connections on one's life.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Piece of the World" invites readers to embark on an emotional and introspective journey, immersing them in the rich tapestry of human experiences, resilience, and the enduring impact of art. Through the poignant portrayal of Christina Olson's life, the novel offers a compelling exploration of identity, creativity, and the profound connections that shape our lives.


Christina Baker Kline's "A Piece of the World" stands as a poignant and evocative work of historical fiction, seamlessly blending art, history, and human emotion. Through its compelling narrative and richly drawn characters, the novel offers a profound exploration of resilience, creativity, and the enduring power of personal connections, leaving a lasting impression on its readers.

A Piece of the World FAQ

  1. What is 'A Piece of the World' about?

    A Piece of the World is a novel that imagines the life of Christina Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth's iconic painting 'Christina's World.' The book delves into Christina's complicated relationship with her family and her evolving friendship with the artist.

  2. Is 'A Piece of the World' based on a true story?

    Yes, the novel is based on the real-life Christina Olson, who lived in Maine and was the subject of Andrew Wyeth's famous painting. However, the book is a work of fiction that imagines Christina's inner thoughts and emotions.

  3. Who is the author of 'A Piece of the World'?

    Christina Baker Kline is the author of 'A Piece of the World.' She is known for her bestselling novel 'Orphan Train' and has received critical acclaim for her storytelling and historical fiction.

  4. What is the setting of 'A Piece of the World'?

    The novel is primarily set in the rural coastal town of Cushing, Maine, where Christina Olson lived her entire life. The author vividly captures the atmosphere and landscape of this small New England community.

  5. Is 'A Piece of the World' suitable for historical fiction enthusiasts?

    Absolutely. 'A Piece of the World' is a compelling historical fiction novel that brings to life the mid-20th century rural Maine and explores the complexities of family, art, and identity. It's likely to resonate with historical fiction enthusiasts.