Can a single moment cast a shadow over every year that follows? In Donna Tartt's latest novel, The Goldfinch—a brilliant successor to her 1992 international best-seller, The Secret History—it takes just a split second for 13-year-old Theo's life to be upended. As he and his mother explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art, waiting for a spring rain shower to abate, a bomb explodes, and suddenly all is ash, smoke, silence. His mother is killed, but Theo stumbles to safety, carrying a priceless 17th-century painting, The Goldfinch, which, in his grief, he clings to like a lifeline. Exiled to Las Vegas to live with his pill-popping gambler father, Theo befriends the violence-addled Boris. The two embark on a frenzy of drinking and drugging, until Theo's abrupt return to Manhattan.
Through his tainted adolescence runs the innocence of his love for Pippa—herself severely injured in the blast—and the kindness of an antiques dealer who provides Theo a home in New York. Adulthood opens on a sketchy world where stolen masterpieces are collateral for drug cartels, and Theo becomes adept at friendships and affairs as fake as the antiques he traffics in. His obsession with keeping The Goldfinch hidden causes dark clouds of paranoia to gather over his head.
For Theo, there are more shadows than light, but now and then "the sun strikes raindrops at a certain angle and throws a prism of color across the sky."
— Linda McCullough Moore