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Kate Says: "Reading Is Fun!"

Like most of you I'm an avid reader. I'm hoping to re-connect with old friends, make new friends, and of course spread the love of reading and writing around to everyone!

Currently reading

Amy Falls Down: A Novel
Jincy Willett
The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression
Eric Maisel Phd
Yes Please
Amy Poehler

The Goldfinch: First Book of My Big Book Challenge 2014 (UPDATE 2 of 5)

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

So, this is my second update, and while the beginning was good, I must admit that the second part was even better! I really got involved with the characters and the story itself. I couldn't wait to discover what direction the story was going to go in, and let me tell you, there were a lot of unexpected twists and turns.


Now, I have to give a disclaimer: this part of the plot will be hard to compile into a few short paragraphs without spoilers, so if you want to read this book and be surprised, then you should stop reading this right now. There you have been warned.


The plot so far (pages 207-370): Once Theo's used to the idea of living with his classmate, Andy and his family, Theo's dad and his girlfriend, Xandra, arrive in New York unexpectedly, and take Theo to live in Las Vegas, with them.


Theo packs up the painting and gives it to Carlos, the doorman of his apartment building (the one he lived in with his mother), whom he trusts, to hold onto it until he can come back and get it again. Carlos and Goldie (another doorman) give Theo some cash and say their good byes.


Theo then goes to Hobie's workshop to say good bye. He thinks this will be the last time he will see him, but about this he will be wrong. 


Theo in his haste of packing, realizes that he packed some very important items in the suitcase with the painting. So, he goes back to his old apartment building and gets the suitcase back from Goldie, who tells him that Carlos has been fired. Now Theo has an extra suitcase that he has to take with him to Vegas. His dad and Xandra aren't really happy about it, but do accommodate it.


Once at the airport, Theo is very nervous that he will be searched by airport security or even worse, the police, who are in full force because of the incident that killed his mother. However, Theo is ushered right through, no questions asked.


Finally, they all land in Vegas, and when Theo has his bags in his hands again; he relaxes a bit as they ride in his dad's Lexus with Xandra to their spacious, but empty house on the outskirts of Vegas. Once there, he realizes that his dad and Xandra's relationship is volatile (they yell at each other a lot). Theo is so lonely, that he takes out the painting, and admires it's beauty in the afternoon light. When his dad calls him down for dinner, Theo puts the painting into a clean pillowcase and duct tapes it to his headboard, in hopes no one will discover it there. Theo only handles the painting by the edges with bare hands and only takes it out when his dad and Xandra aren't there.


School starts for Theo the second week in August, and there he makes friends with Boris, the only friend he will make in Vegas, but one of his great friends of his life. Boris has lived in Australia, Russia, and the Ukraine. He is also an only child and lives at the edge of Canyon Shadows, which is further away than Theo's home. Boris's father is a miner and his mother, his father's second wife, is dead. Boris's dad is a heavy drinker, womanizer, and beats on Boris.


Since Boris and Theo are left to their own devices, they become inseparable. They scrounge for their meals, eat together, and share what little money they have. They tell each other stories and to Theo, Boris becomes the most interesting person his age, he has ever met.


Time passes slowly this way, and the only landline to Theo's old life in New York, are the letters and small gifts he receives in the mail from Hobie. However, Theo eventually stops returning Hobie's letters, and the communication ceases.


The seasons change and it's Christmas Eve. Boris and Theo go grocery shopping with some money Theo's dad gives them. However, when their Christmas feast is about to be done, Theo's dad comes into the kitchen to announce that he's taking everybody out to the Strip instead, to celebrate his winnings at the Baccarat table. At midnight, Theo's dad gives Xandra a jewelry box, and the boys get $500, a piece. At this moment, Theo thinks that happiness in Las Vegas might not be such a doomed or fatal idea after all.


A year later, everything changes. Boris gets a girlfriend and Theo gets stoned by himself, watches the Playboy channel, and reads some very good library books. Then his dad shows him how to bet on sports and Sunday's become "major-ticket" days. Theo also does library research on the artist of the painting he has, and the element of chance; the stray chance that might, or might not, change everything, are fascinating philosophies for Theo.


Theo's dad does all right with the sports betting for a while, until Mr. Silver comes to the house looking for Theo's dad to repay his debts. Boris tells Theo:

It's going to be the Three R's for your dad if he doesn't repay the money he owes that guy. Three R's? Revolver, roadside, or roof. (p. 315)

Theo's dad then tries to take Theo's money out of his account to cover his debts, but Theo's mom had put so many restrictions in place, that it's next to impossible for either him or Theo to get at it. Then Boris drops a bombshell on Theo, telling him that his dad has to leave for his job again. He's going back to Australia and then onto Russia. However, Boris insists that he's not going to go anywhere. He's going to run away and asks Theo if he'd like to join him. Theo says that he would, but only if Kotku (Boris's girlfriend), won't be going with.


Then a few days later, Mr. Silver returns to the house and tells Theo he has a really big problem with his dad. Turns out, Mr. Silver is holding fifty grand of his dad's paper, which is causing some really big problems for him. Mr. Silver tells Theo in no uncertain terms that his dad needs to bring him back what he owes, because if he needs to pay another visit to the house, it's not going to be pleasant for anyone there.


After this incident and before Boris and Theo can leave the house, Xandra comes home with a funny look on her face and a strange sounding voice. She tells Theo that his father had a car accident because he was driving drunk. Theo asks when he'll be released from the hospital and Xandra tells him that he's never coming home. He's dead.


Of course this news turns Theo's life upside down, but he and Boris realize in their talks with Xandra, that she doesn't know the truth about Theo's father's behavior, nor about Mr. Silver. Only Theo and Boris know the full story, which makes it even harder for Theo to handle.


Once Xandra is out cold from the pills Theo and Boris give her, they go through her stuff, and Theo finds the diamond and emerald earrings (that Theo's mom had said were missing before she died in the accident in New York). Theo reclaims the earrings, while Boris is just happy to have found cash and drugs.


Theo takes Xandra's cash from Boris and splits it with him. Theo tells Boris that he needs to get out of Las Vegas tonight, if at all possible because he has no family left, and child services will come and stick him in a home. Boris doesn't understand what Theo is trying to tell him about how the legal system works, and finally just says to him:

Look, if you're coming, we need to hurry. Do you have a passport? You'll need it for the plane. (p. 345)


Boris says he'll go with Theo, but only on one condition, that they go somewhere warm, like California. Theo is very aware that he's stepping off the edge and into a major mistake - petty theft, the change cup, sidewalk nods and homelessness - a fuck up from which he believes he won't ever recover from; but it sure beats all the other options. Theo untapes the picture from his headboard and puts it in his bag. He's worried that Boris is going to ask him what it is, but he never does.


Theo leaves with his dog Popper, but Boris stays behind. He says he has too much to do in Vegas still. That he's not ready to leave. So, Theo takes a cab to the Greyhound bus station. The cab driver, gives Theo a lesson in mis-direction. Armed with this knowledge, Theo is able to board the bus with his dog and painting, without alarming anyone.


However, when the bus gets to St. Louis, Popper makes himself known to the other passengers. Theo gets in trouble with the bus operator, but she takes pity on Theo and lets him keep Popper on the bus under one condition, that no one on the bus has any complaints about it.


Finally, Theo arrives back in New York City. However, he's burning up with a fever. The city he's longed for so fiercely now seems foreign, noisy, cold, unfriendly, and the terminal is packed with cops. Theo uses mis-direction and gets out of there as fast as he can and keeps walking like he knows where he's going. Popper is terrified of the noises, people, and refuses to walk, so Theo has to pick him up and carry him in his duffle bag.


As Theo's walking across Central Park South, he spots Mr. Barbour (Andy's father). But when Theo catches up to him, he brushes Theo away and walks off. Theo thinks to himself:

I ought to have known mania when I saw it. (p. 363)

So, Theo and Popper are utterly alone on the streets of New York City. The real prospect of sleeping on the street is now a whole lot less appealing, since Theo is feverish and it's November.


In a last ditch effort,Theo takes a cab to Hobie's shop. When he gets there he realizes that nothing has changed. The shop itself is still closed and the windows have a bit more grime and dust on them. Theo works up the courage to ring the bell and when the door finally opens, Theo finds himself not looking at Hobbie, but a girl his own age, Pippa. Then Hobie shows up behind Pippa and Theo re-introduces himself and asks if they remember him. When both Pippa and Hobie look at him with friendly surprise, Theo cries. Then Popper makes himself known and Pippa laughs and cuddles him in her arms. Theo tells a condensed version of his travels and Hobie insists that Theo call Xandra to let her know he's alright.


Theo does so, and Xandra answers on the first ring. She accuses Theo of leaving the door open and now Poppy's gone. When Theo tells her that Poppy is with him, she sounds relieved, and then asks where he is. Theo doesn't answer her and they get into an argument about the emerald earrings instead. Finally, Theo and Xandra come to an agreement that Theo doesn't have to tell her where he is, but he needs to give a contact address, so that she can give it to the school and child services. Xandra's final words to Theo are:

You and your dad are a whole lot more alike than you might think. You're his kid, all right, through and through. (p. 370)

Theo responds back with:

You're full of shit. (p. 370)

They hang up. However, long after their conversation is over, Xandra's last words form an ugly thread that run through Theo's head, all night long, throughout his dreams.