"Over the years, certain stories in the history of a family take hold. They're passed from generation to generation, gaining substance and meaning along the way. You have to learn to sift through them, separating fact from conjecture, the likely from the implausible.
Here is what I know: Sometimes the least believable stories are the true ones."
--from A PIECE OF THE WORLD by bestselling ORPHAN TRAIN author Christina Baker Kline.
The novel I'm reading now is inspired by the life of the woman in the painting "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth. If you've read my work, you know I like writing about family secrets. I like reading about them, too--especially when the secrets are rooted in real life family stories.
My grandparents had a print of "Christina's World" and I always wondered about it as a child. Who was that woman in the grass, appearing to claw her way through the dirt towards a lonely-looking house?
Baker Kline gives Christina Olson, the muse behind the painting, a voice, and reimagines her pivotal and unlikely friendship with Wyeth. It opens: “Later he told me 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.”
Like the truth about families, the places inspiration comes from can be mysterious. Ask any author where she got the idea for her latest book and the answer is likely to be complex and surprising. I believe all art is like that, and this book is speaking to the side of me that's fascinated by muses.
So far, reading this book feels like reading Christina's diary--personal, real, heartbreaking, familiar.