The writing style in this novel is somewhat unique. It spans decades, moves back and forth in time, but is always written in the present tense.
The novel opens in 1939, at the farm in Maine, where Christina lives with her parents and her brother, Al. But it quickly moves back to the 1890s when her father, a Swedish immigrant, leaves his sea-faring times behind when he meets Christina’s mother.
This is very much Christina’s story – from her mysterious disease as a child that cripples her feet and legs, arms and hands, to the bullying she endures at school after her daily struggle to walk or crawl the mile and a half to get there. When she is twelve her father says her school days are over as she is needed at home, and from that time onward, Christina’s life narrows to the farm, to the kitchen, to her garden.
In the 1940s Andrew Wyeth begins making regular visits to Christina’s house, to practice his painting. For many years he spends his summers painting here.
We get a definite flavour of isolation in Christina’s life, but also her simple pleasures – her cat, the sunset, the ever changing waters in the bay, her joy from her garden and her red geraniums.
This book is slow with very little action or suspense. Nevertheless, it gives one time to absorb the landscape, interpret the small joys and hurts we all have in life. We are immersed in the never ending chores of the farm and get a glimpse into the heart of a strong, determined young woman.
If you are looking for an exciting read – this is not it. If you are up for a character study of a woman, who accomplishes much in spite of her handicap, this book will move you.
The Way Life Should Be
Andrew Wyeth is a visual artist, classified as a realist. He maintained this style pf work for over seventy years.