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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    Feb 2017, 320 pages
    Jan 2018, 384 pages


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Print Excerpt

Gables. 'So much of mankind's varied experience had passed there that the very timbers were oozy, as with the moisture of a heart.' "

The lines are familiar. I remember reading that novel in school, a long time ago. "We're actually related to Nathaniel Hawthorne," I tell him.

"Interesting. Ah yes—Hathorn." Going to the window, he gestures toward the field. "I saw the tombstones in the graveyard down there. Hawthorne lived in Maine for a while, I believe?"

"I don't know about that," I admit. "Our ancestors came from Massachusetts. Nearly two hundred years ago. Three men, in the middle of winter."

"Where in Massachusetts?"


"Why'd they come up?"

"My grandmother said they were trying to escape the taint of association with their relative John Hathorne. He was chief justice of the witch trials. When they got to Maine they dropped the 'e' at the end of the name."

"To obscure the connection?"

I shrug. "Presumably."

"I'm remembering this now," he says. "Nathaniel Hawthorne left Salem too, and also changed the spelling of the name. But a lot of his stories are reworkings of his own family history. Your family history, I suppose. Moral allegories about people determined to root out wickedness in others while denying it in themselves."

"Actually," I tell him, "there's a legend that as one of the condemned witches stood at the scaffold, waiting for the noose, she uttered a curse: 'May God take revenge on the family of John Hathorne.' "

"So your family is cursed!" he says with delight.

"Maybe. Who knows? My grandmother used to say that those Hathorn men brought the witches with them from Salem. She kept the door open between the kitchen and the shed for the witches to come and go."

Looking around the Shell Room, he says, "What do you think? Is it true?"

"I've never seen any," I tell him. "But I keep the door open too."

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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