Theo and his mother were at the Met (well, I can’t remember if it was really called the Met in the book, but it was the Met) because Theo was suspended from school. On the way back from a meeting all about him, she decided to stop at the museum because they had a painting on display that she had seen in a book before, and wanted to see in person (the titular Goldfinch). Theo became distracted by a very pretty red head of his own age, and stayed behind when his mother went back for one last look. And that was when the bomb went off.
Theo tried to find his mother, but instead found the uncle of the pretty redhead, who handed him the Goldfinch painting, as well as his ring, with instructions to bring it to a specific address elsewhere in Manhattan. In shock, Theo manages to get out of the museum, and head home, hoping his mother will be waiting there for him. She’s not. In the days that follow, Theo’s bundled off by CPS, and the painting stays in their apartment, forgotten. He does bring the ring back, therefore meeting Hobie, the uncle’s business partner, and Pippa, the red headed girl, who did survive the bomb, but with grave injuries. By the time the apartment is packed up, Theo doesn’t know what to do about the painting – he’s afraid that people will think he stole it. That, and the bomb, will shape the rest of his life.
So that’s like the first three chapters of an enormous story (this was the first time I was ever really confused by a Kindle book – my percentage finished just wouldn’t go down – I finally had to look it up to realize how big a book this was). Reviews call it Dickensian (I hated the only Dickens I read – A Tale of Two Cities – so I can’t speak to that) – I will call it sprawling. I mean, the above two paragraphs are just the set up. Where it goes from there defies easy description. I can only say, it’s an amazing story, with a cast of fascinating characters.
It’s also a very hard story. I read all or most of six other books as breaks from this one. But in the end, it does boil down to what the author puts in the final pages, as if Theo is finishing off his journal entry for the day – it’s about love, and it’s about finding things outside of yourself to love, and what that will do in your life.
A final note – the day after I finished this, we were in VT, and it featured in one of the Jeopardy answers in that night’s episode. It definitely followed me around while I was reading it.