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Arts & Culture

In Two Bestselling Novels, Hardscrabble Women Beat The Odds

Courtesy of Christina Baker Kline

Christina Baker Kline sold nearly four million copies of her novel “Orphan Train” (HarperCollins/2013). The book imagined the story of Vivian, a 91-year-old woman who had been shipped west to foster care as a child. 

The book uses Vivian’s story to reveal the hidden history of the orphan train movement, which sent abandoned, homeless or parentless children to mostly midwestern families. Through a surprising relationship with a troubled teen, readers see how Vivian overcame a raw deal with resilience and resolve. In her latest novel “A Piece of the World” (HarperCollins/2017), Baker Kline provides a similar imagining of Christina Olson, the real-life subject of Andrew Wyeth’s celebrated painting “Christina’s World,” which currently hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Like Vivian, Christina has been dealt a hand that leaves much to be desired in life: she suffers from a degenerative disease that leaves her crippled. But she too is irrepressible in the face of her fate and finds special meaning and opportunity in an unlikely relationship with the charming young painter, for whom she becomes a muse and companion.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Christina Baker Kline about her own inspiration and about the hardy women she writes about. Baker Kline speaks at a ticketed event benefiting the Durham Literacy Center on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m.

 at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham. 

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