Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Goldfinch

Goldfinch centers on the life of a New York City boy, Theodore Decker who loses his mother in a museum explosion. He is with his mom, dreading a visit to the principal's office. However, they decide to visit a museum and his life changes. There is an explosion. His mom dies. An old man gives him a ring on the way out and he decides to take a painting. His dad had previously left his family, leaving him a ward of the state. He remembers an elementary school friend and goes to live with them. He also traces down the partner of the guy that gave him the ring and becomes friends with him. (He is also attracted to the girl that was with the old man.) He learns about the antiques business. Months later, his alcoholic, gambler dad picks him up and takes him to Vegas. He is pretty much left alone. He befriends Boris who also lives with his rarely present father. They have a lot of fun drinking and taking drugs.
Theodore's father has some gambling issues and dies after driving drunk. Theodore decides to go back to New York, and ends up going back to the antiques man. The story skips past his time in college and has him back working in the antique shop. He puts things in order financially by passing off remakes as antiques. He has a few chance encounters, discovers his childhood friend is dead and eventually becomes engaged. He runs into Boris, goes to Europe, gets the stolen painting back, kills some people, and loses the painting. He is on the brink of suicide, then decides to turn himself in. Just then Boris appears. He has collected money for reporting the location of the painting (and also uncovering others.) He uses the money to fix the antique fakes, calls off the engagement, and then pontificates at the end of the novel.
The novel is set in the hear and now and attempts to be realistic. However, there are just too many coincidences. There are so many "chance encounters" in Manhattan. Most seem to happen right when needed. Boris seems to come out of nowhere exactly when he is most needed in Theodore's life. The boys also seem to get along pretty well when they are inebriated, yet others get knocked out. You could just about call it "magical realism", except the "magical" is mostly coincidental. The end of the novel also goes on with some random thoughts that seem out of character with the rest of the novel. The story is a "coming of age" for a boy that seems to lose everything again and again, but still manages to bounce back. There is also a bit about art.

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