A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Piece of the World


Christina is a crippled girl who grows up on a farm in a small town in Maine. She walks with difficulty and has difficulty using her hands. As with many works of "literature", this book vastly overuses the flashback and flash-forward technique. We see old Christina being painted by famous Andrew Wyeth when she is an old lady, and we flashback to see Christina's past.

Wyeth starts out painting Christina's barn and we get pages and pages of how wonderful his barn paintings are. Look, he painted the rooster! And the rake and the broom that Uncle Jed left by the door! How amazing!  I'll spare you the summary of those parts. Only at the end of the book where he paints Christina do we get some meat, and we'll cover that at the end.

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Most of the story is the flashback of Christina's childhood and adult years. When Christina was a kid, her parents wanted to take her to a doctor because she could barely walk and use her hands. But Christina was afraid of the doctor and refused to go.

For most of the rest of her life, she is constantly pounded on that if only she had gone to the doctor, she would have not spent her life as a cripple. Well, guess what, near the end of the book she does go to a doctor, and he finds there is nothing he can do for her. So all the pages and pages of moaning "Why didn't Christina go to the doctor when she was a child" are all for nothing.

When Christina is in school her teacher recommends she study to become a teacher herself. But her parents refuse to let her get more of an education because they want her to be their personal slave on their family farm. So Christina doesn't go and sure enough, she spends the rest of her life as a crippled slave on the family farm. Had enough sadness? We've only just begun!

Christina improbably gets a boyfriend named Walton. Walton is wealthy and from Boston and educated and going to Harvard and has two good arms and two good legs and in short, has absolutely nothing in common with Christina. And yet he comes summer after summer to spend time with her. Although Christina's arms and legs don't work well, her v_gina does. Actually they never quite say they have sex but why else would this boy keep coming back summer after summer to see her? Hm.....

Anyway, one time Walton suggests that Christina come to Boston with her and see a doctor for her crippled legs. Christina is offended by the suggestion because being crippled has become part of her identity. I think she enjoys being miserable.

Walton writes dry letters to Christina during the fall, winter, and spring while he is away. The letters are very boring and don't even hint at sex but Christina is very excited to read them. Walton writes about his classes and his teachers and his zzzzzz.... I'm sorry, did I fall asleep?

After several summers of romance, Christina asks Walton for a commitment. Walton replies, "Oh Christina, some things don't need explanation, do they?" which is a clever way of getting out of it. You really have to wonder why Walton can't get a normal girl back home with normal arms and legs. There's got to be something wrong with him--erectile dysfunction, maybe?--but the book never makes that clear.

Christina breaks her ankle walking down the road because walking is so difficult for her. She drags her body across the mud to a neighbor's house and begs for help, looking and sounding very pathetic. Has this story gotten sad enough for you yet? Just wait, there's more.

Walton tells Christina his parents don't approve of Christina and want him to bone a chick with normal arms and legs, and while he's at it preferentially one who's gotten more than an eighth grade education.

The day before Walton is to leave at the end of the summer he starts feeling Christina's v_gina, one of the few parts of her that presumably works. She feels Walton's erect aristocratic p_nis pressing against her twisted mutant legs. At that moment Walton promises that the two of them will always be together.

Christina, foolishly believing a promise brought on by an erection, is overjoyed.

When Walton leaves he immediately stops writing her. Soon Christina learns that he is going to marry someone else, and he hasn't even told Christina about it.  So much for his solemn erect p_nis promise.

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Christina: Christina is an old, grumpy crippled lady who lives on a farm in a small town. Her entire life is one of pain and suffering and humiliation. A rich kid from Boston (Walton) visits her during the summer to bone her and promises to marry her, but then marries someone else, and Christina spends the rest of her life being bitter about it and crawling on her hands and knees in the gutter. Then Andrew (see below) paints a ridiculous painting of Christina that makes her feel better about herself.

 Andrew: Andrew is a famous painter who creates a painting of Christina, making her look young and happy. He also paints her barn for several hundred pages.

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Art can lie to you. If you live a sad life, some fraud can convince you that you are happy if he has the right personality and can draw a painting of you showing you young and happy. But art cannot redraw reality. Only reality can redraw reality. Christina is suckered by the "beauty" of the painting showing her lying crippled in the grass. I think this elaborate deception, or self-deception, only makes the story sadder.

Some people like being miserable. I strongly got the impression that Christina liked being miserable. She refused to go to a doctor for many years, and refused to get a sedentary job, like teaching, and she refused to use a wheelchair. I think she liked crawling around on the ground, I think she enjoyed being unhappy.

Even crippled girls can get some action. Despite her crippled body Walton was still interested in her for a time. That proves that every woman has a v_gina and like the window of a candy store, can attract customers if the price is right.

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