Pick of the Week: The Goldfinch
"Who was it that said coincidence was just God's way of remaining anonymous?"
From the beginning of this book, when he survives a bombing in a New York art museum that kills his mother, Theo Decker is adrift in the world. He is anchored only by the one thing he took with him from the wreckage of the bombing, a small, yet world famous, painting of a goldfinch which he hides and protects almost religiously. The bombing and its aftermath haunt Theo for the rest of his life and the longer he keeps the painting, the more significance it has for him. After his mother's death, 16 year-old Theo bounces between the homes of old friends and new acquaintances until he lands in Las Vegas with his ne'er-do-well father and his sleazy girlfriend. As a mother, I was bothered by his reckless lifestyle during this part of the book, but Theo and his new sidekick Boris, managed to coast through in a drug and alcohol-induced stupor, with few serious consequences. When a debt collector comes looking for his father with a baseball bat, Theo rushes back to his safer friends in New York.
I kept waiting for Theo to grow up and take charge of his life, and he does eventually, but not quite soon enough for me. I enjoyed this book for Theo's journey and the caring people he met along the way. They might not have been traditional caregivers, but they helped guide lost Theo.
In the hands of a lesser writer, this book might have been a slog, but I was entirely emotionally engaged. I loved this book even though sometimes I wanted to yell at the main character to just grow up, already.
I would recommend this book to readers who aren't afraid of long books and those who appreciate exquisite writing and sophisticated character development. Although it's probably too long for most book clubs, there are plenty of ideas to talk about.