Recently abandoned by his father, who moved out of the family home in Manhattan, Theo Decker, 13, and his beautiful mother are making it on their own in New York. After Theo gets in a little trouble at school, he and his mother have an appointment at school to discuss his issues. With some time to spare before the appointment, the two stop off at the MET for a Dutch art exhibit. Theo is not at an age where he appreciates fine art, but he does notice a pretty red-headed girl about his age and an elderly man who catches his attention. He is curious about the girl and the mysterious older man she is with. So when his mom suggests they visit the gift shop, Theo declines to stay close to the young girl, and in an instant, his life is forever changed.
After an explosion and the rubble which resulted,Theo is unable to get to the gift shop or locate his mother. He does find the now dying older man (Welty) who gives Theo a ring and tells him to take it to a place called, Hobart and Blackwell and to "ring the green bell", when he arrives. Welty also tells him to take the small painting which had fallen to the ground after the explosion. The artwork is a priceless 17th century, one of a kind painting which depicts a little yellow pet finch that is chained at the ankle, "The Goldfinch.".
Dazed in the aftermath, Theo now sees his life defined as "Before Mom and After Mom". He is haunted by what has happened; he blames himself for his mother's death. Child protective services intervenes and Theo's journey to adulthood takes a most unconventional course. From living with a wealthy school friend on Park Avenue, to being dragged off to Las Vegas by his loser, gambler father and his girlfriend Xandra, Theo's life is in chaos. The only comfort for him is, The Goldfinch painting, which he clings to like a security blanket.
Theo has kept the painting hidden since the tragedy, for it reminds him of his mother. But, what can a young man do with a priceless piece of art like The Goldfinch? For a number of years, he keeps it safe, and gazes at it occasionally in private, until years later when, a seedy friend from Theo's teen years in Las Vegas resurfaces in New York and has a plan.
In The Goldfinch, the reader is transported on a spellbinding journey into the lives of The Barbours, the wealthy, Park Avenue family that took young Theo in. Hobie, the antique dealer and former business partner of the elderly man who died in the explosion, who gives Theo a place to live and work when he returns to NYC. There is also unpredictable Boris, who Theo befriends in Las Vegas after Theo's loser dad and girlfriend take him from NYC to live with them. Both boys are left to fend for themselves, and except for the occasional left overs that Xandra brings home, their consumption seems to consist primarily of food they can steal or alcohol and drugs.
Told from the first person looking back, The Goldfinch followsTheo from the ages of 13 to 27. From New York to Las Vegas, back to New York and even on an international journey to Amsterdam. The author creates a memorable cast of characters and imagery. The characters are so well drawn, the writing is fabulous and both colorful and suspenseful. For me, it novel was, at times, an emotional journey. My heart went out to Theo, even when he made some poor choices along the way. I loved the way the novel drew me into the world of art, and although it can't be considered a happy story, it is a story that, for me, had a very satisfying conclusion. So far it is probably one of the very best books I've read in 2013, even though it was well over 700 pages -- I never felt bored. Be sure to read this one.
(Thanks to Hachette/Little Brown & Co and Edelweiss for providing me with an eGalley)