A PIECE OF THE WORLD

By Christina Baker Kline

William Morrow, 2017

309 pages, $16.99

ISBN 978-0-06-235627-7

Andrew Wyeth’s most famous painting is “Christina’s World,” the haunting image of a young woman laying on a grassy hillside, looking back uphill at an old farmhouse and barn. The painting hangs in the New York Museum of Modern Art, and viewers often wonder, “Who was Christina? Was she real?”

And the answers are — Yes, she was real, and best-selling Maine author Christina Baker Kline tells us who Christina really was in this beautifully written, tender story. This is Kline’s sixth novel, after “Orphan Train” (2013), but it is not a biography; rather, it’s a fictionalized story of Christina’s life, told by Christina herself, with a sensitive novelist’s license for dialogue and plot scenes.

Christina Olson (1893-1968) and Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) first met in 1938. She was 45 years old, crippled by a degenerative muscle disorder, living as a spinster with her brother, Al, on the old family farm in Cushing. Wyeth then was a young painter struggling to find his artistic way in the shadow of his famous artist father, N.C. Wyeth. Christina and Andy were close friends for 10 years before he finally convinced her to pose for that iconic Maine painting. She was 55 then, but he painted her as a young girl because that’s how he always viewed her, despite her age and infirmity.

Kline lets Christina tell of her childhood in a large farm family, her crippling illness, her love of reading and school, a summertime romance with a Harvard boy who would break her heart, the years of taking care of her parents and brothers and her treasured friendship with Andy Wyeth.

A strong, proud woman with a good heart, Christina teaches two important lessons: “There are many ways to love and be loved” and “the greatest kindness is acceptance.”

FOREVERGLADES

By Christopher Fahy

Limerock Books, 2017

188 pages, $14.95

ISBN 978-0-9637727-1-8

Comedienne Lucille Ball (1911-1989) once said: “The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.” Unless, of course, you’ve found the Fountain of Youth. And that’s just what two beer-guzzling knuckleheads in Florida did.

“Foreverglades” is Thomaston author Christopher Fahy’s 13th novel — a funny, whimsical tall tale about youth, age and the wisdom that comes with acceptance and second chances.

Todd and Denny are 34-year-old best pals, drinking and fishing buddies in Florida’s Everglades, not too bright but basically good ol’ boys. While fishing in a mangrove swamp one day, they stumble upon a partially sunken Spanish galleon and an old geezer in a helmet skulking in the brush. A treasure ship, they think, but quickly realize they are not the only people thinking of Spanish gold.

Hiding ashore from ruthless treasure hunters, Todd and Denny drink from a pool of tasty water and promptly turn into pimply 14-year-old boys. They’ve found the Fountain of Youth and met its guardian, 500-year-old Ponce de Leon, who’s looking pretty spry himself. This unlikely trio form an alliance and friendship, evading the thugs and safeguarding a hidden hoard of gold.

The boys take de Leon home, introducing him to the 21st century — a hilarious adventure of toilet training, explanations of Wonder Bread and karaoke, de Leon’s first visit to a beauty salon for a make-over and his first exposure to a gentleman’s strip club and a dancer named Cupcake.

The boys also discover there is a Fountain of Age which can restore them to adulthood, if used properly. The three use the waters of both fountains for good, healing the sick and repairing relationships. This is a delightful story — full of laughs, wacky situations and good feelings.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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