Author of 'Orphan Train' speaks about her new book

Published on Thursday, 5 October 2017 20:56
Written by Lorenzo Burgio


BRISTOL -- Christina Baker Kline, author of a New York Times Bestseller “Orphan Train,” discussed the background and detail of her new book, “A Piece of The World.”

The Oaks Room at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bristol was filled with interested book lovers who soaked up an abundance of knowledge about Kline, her new book “A Piece of the World” and the 1948 Andrew Wyeth painting “Christina’s World.”

“After I finished writing ‘Orphan Train,’ I began to look for another story that would engage my mind and heart as completely. I learned a great deal about early to mid 20th century America and I wanted to linger in that time period. I had become particularly interested in rural life: how people got by and what tools they needed to survive hard times.

“As with ‘Orphan Train,’ I liked the idea of taking a real historical moment of some significance and lending fiction and nonfiction, filling in the details, illuminating the story that has been obscured or unnoticed,” Kline said, thus leading her to the painting that she had been familiar with the majority of her life.

Wyeth’s painting, which is now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, shows Christina Olsen - a real person - distressed in a field outside of her farmhouse. Kline’s book focuses on the painting and Olson by honing in on her life and incorporating real individuals who were a part of it, factual knowledge about it and a twist from Kline’s own life.

“So I immersed myself in ‘Christina’s World.’ I sat in front of this actual painting in the MOMA listening to the enthused, perturbed, intrigued, dismissive, passionate comments from passersby from all over the globe,” Kline said. She recalled being asked one day, “What would it look like if the woman in the painting turned her head?” She said, “The truth is we don’t know anything about her, she is a mystery to us,” but sparking the idea for a book.

However, there are two aspects from Kline’s childhood that are highlighted in the book adding a familial flare. She explained, after being born and raised in England, her family of avid readers moved to Bangor, ME, to a house that had a print of the famous painting in the kitchen. This is when her father had an idea.

“It got into his head one day that we were going to have a picnic in the field down where Christina was lying,” Kline said, referencing a photo of her on the property in the painting with her father and grandmother. “We trekked right down the field and had a picnic where my dad thought she was laying.”

While displaying side-by-side pictures of Olsen and her grandmother as babies with an uncanny resemblance, Kline continued to explain that visiting the property was not the only connection.

“My mother and grandmother were also named Christina,” she said, “They were born within a few years of each other and raised in really similar conditions: in white clapboard farmhouses in the middle of nowhere. Both of them were precocious, early readers. Both of them ended up taking care of their families from a young age. They were raised with no amenities of any kind, no water, electricity or heat.

“My grandmother was a great storyteller and would talk often about her childhood, so when I was creating the portrait of Christina for the book, I drew on her stories from her own childhood,” Kline said, which provided the book a familial flare.

Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at or at 860-973-5088.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Arts, Bristol, General News on Thursday, 5 October 2017 20:56. Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2017 20:58.