Excerpt from A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Piece of the World

A Novel

by Christina Baker Kline

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline X
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2017, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2018, 384 pages

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Print Excerpt

1939

I'm working on a quilt patch in the kitchen on a brilliant July afternoon, small squares of fabric and a pincushion and scissors on the table beside me, when I hear the hum of a car engine. Looking out the window toward the cove, I see a station wagon turn into the field about a hundred yards away. The engine cuts off and the passenger door swings open and Betsy James gets out, laughing and exclaiming. I haven't seen her since last summer. She's wearing a white halter top and denim shorts, a red bandanna tied around her neck. As I watch her coming toward the house, I am struck by how different she looks. Her sweet round face has thinned and lengthened; her chestnut hair is long and thick around her shoulders, her eyes dark and shining.

A red slash of lipstick. I think of her at nine years old, when she first came to visit, her small, nimble fingers braiding my hair as she sat behind me on the stoop. And here she is, seventeen and suddenly a woman.

"Hey there, Christina," she says at the screen door, out of breath. "It's been such a long time!"



"Come in," I say from my chair. "You won't mind if I don't get up?"

"Of course not." When she steps inside, the room smells of roses. (When did Betsy start wearing perfume?) She sweeps over to my chair and hugs my shoulders. "We arrived a few days ago. I surely am happy to be back."

"You surely look it."

She smiles, spots of color on her cheeks. "How are you and Al?"

"Oh, you know. Fine. The same."

"The same is good, yes?"

I smile. Sure. The same is good.

"What are you making here?"

"Just a little thing. A baby quilt. Lora's pregnant again."

"Such a generous auntie." She reaches down and picks up a quilt square, a piece of calico, pink flowers with green leaves on a brown background. "I recognize this fabric."

"I tore up an old dress."

"I remember it. Small white buttons and a full skirt, right?"

I think of my mother bringing home the Butterick pattern and the iridescent buttons and the calico. I think of Walton seeing me in the dress for the first time. 'I am awed by you.' "That was a long time ago."

"Well, it's nice that old dress is getting a new life." Gently she places the square back on the table and sifts through the others: white muslin, navy cotton, chambray faintly marked with ink.

"All these bits and pieces. You're making a family heirloom."

"I don't know about that," I say. "It's just a pile of scraps."

"One man's trash . . ." She laughs and glances out the window.

"I completely forgot! I came up here for a cup of water, if you don't mind."

"Sit down, I'll get you a glass."

"Oh, it's not for me." She points at the station wagon in the field. "My friend wants to paint a picture of your house, but he needs water to do it."

I squint at the car. A boy is sitting on the roof, looking at the sky. He's got a large white pad of paper in one hand and what looks like a pencil in the other.

"He's N. C. Wyeth's son," Betsy says in a stage whisper, as if someone might hear.

"Who?"

"You know N. C. Wyeth. The famous illustrator? Treasure Island? "

Ah, Treasure Island. "Al loved that book. I think we still have it somewhere."

"I think every boy in America has it somewhere. Well, his son's an artist too. I just met him today."

"You met him today, and you're riding around in a car with him?"

"Yes, he's—I don't know. He seems trustworthy."

"Your parents don't mind?"

"They don't know." She smiles sheepishly. "He showed up at the house this morning looking for my father, but my parents had gone off for a sail. I answered the door. And here we are."

Excerpted from A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline. Copyright © 2017 by Christina Baker Kline. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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