Thirteen-year-old Theo Decker's life changes dramatically when he and his mother stop by the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the way to a conference at Theo's school. While browsing the gallery Theo spots an elderly gentleman (Welty) escorting a teenage girl (Pippa) with whom Theo is instantly enthralled. Shortly afterward a terrorist bomb levels part of the museum, Theo's mom is killed, and Theo - shocked and confused - makes off with a small masterpiece, Carel Fabritius's painting "The Goldfinch".
Theo's deep mourning over the loss of his mother, his illicit possession of the beautiful masterpiece, and his infatuation with the badly injured Pippa profoundly affect his ongoing story.
(view spoiler)Theo temporarily moves into the home of his wealthy best friend, Andy Barbour - who has eccentric parents and resentful siblings. He also makes the acquaintance of Welty's partner, James Hobart (Hobie), a furniture restorer and antique dealer who teaches Theo the trade. After a short time Theo's irresponsible, alcoholic, gambling-addicted father shows up with his girlfriend Xandra and they whisk Theo off to live in an isolated house in the Las Vegas desert. Here Theo meets his friend for life, the Ukranian Boris - and the two boys embark on a lifestyle of stealing, drinking, taking drugs, and blowing off school.
When Theo's dad dies in a car crash Theo (and Xandra's neglected dog Popper) make their way back to New York and move in with Hobie. Theo - now a drug and alcohol addict - eventually partners with Hobie in the antique shop. Needing funds for the business Theo proceeds to cheat wealthy clients by selling some of Hobie's creations as genuine antiques. In time Theo, his love for Pippa unrequited, tries to move on romantically. He also gets involved with blackmailers, gangsters, and art thieves, all of which leads to the climax of the story.
END SPOILER ALERT!
To me the very last part of the book - where the author philosophizes about art and beauty and life - was slow and somewhat incomprehensible. For the most part, though, this is an excellent book with a good story, well-rounded, engrossing characters and enough twists to keep the reader interested.