A bomb goes off in an art museum in New York, and twelve- year-old Theodore Decker is left alive, lying in the rubble. His mother dies in the blast, and Theo leaves the scene with something that reminds him of her: a priceless work of art, The Goldfinch, which was her favorite painting. Now parentless, Theo moves in with the family of a classmate and befriends Hobie, the business partner of an old man Theo met in the aftermath of the explosion. Eventually, Theo's absentee father is located, and the boy moves to Las Vegas with the alcoholic parent who had abandoned their family. There, he spends months with almost no supervision until his father dies in a car accident. He returns to New York and the antiques shop, and the painting follows him. He keeps it protected as best he can, until an old friend shows up one day with a secret that will lead them into the underworld of forged and stolen art.
This is Donna Tartt's third novel. Her writing style is clear and simple, and the book moves quickly as the reader travels with Theo and takes part in the scandals and action that surround the character and the painting. Theo is a frustrating character, and the reader will grind their teeth as they watch him fall deeper and deeper into despair, crime and the world of drugs. The audience can see exit strategies, the points where he should just say no. But the fun of Tartt's novel is that her main characters are blind to these alternative paths and the actions that could make them happy. The reader is left wondering whether the explosion changed the course of Theo's life, or if he was always destined for what awaits him.
Reviewed by bp, 1/14. Other reviews by bp.