If you are, like me, a dog, book and movie lover, you will feel a sense of dread when reading Donna Tartt’s new book, The Goldfinch. This is because it features a small white fluffster of a Maltese dog — called variously Popper, Popchik and Popchyk — who appears doomed from the moment he makes his entry into the novel, greeting with desperate shrieks the evil owner who has left him home all alone for almost two weeks.
Luckily for Popper, things change for the better thanks to Theo, the new teenage addition to his household, and Theo’s bad-guy buddy, Boris. These two drug and booze-addled dudes let the little dog hang out with them, ending his life of isolation. The downside is that their activities don’t exactly provide a safe and secure environment for the family pet, provoking many anxieties that he will go missing forever in a deserted Las Vegas subdivision.
Worse yet, when Theo and Boris encounter a mobster, it seems predestined that Popper will get what happens to so many movie dogs and end up lifeless on the front door stoop or kitchen counter with a threatening note attached to his collar.
Any half-serious movie goer knows just how often the loyal family dog meets a gruesome death, enough that there exists an entire website — www.DoesTheDogDie.com — devoted to answering this “most important movie question” and mentally preparing dog-loving movie goers for what’s to come.
That there is no literary equivalent to www.DoesTheDogDie.com can be seen as a good thing in as much as it shows that tear-jerking pet death has never been as big an issue for books as it is for movies. On the other hand, it also means there’s no quick reference guide to turn to if a reader does start to worry about a fictional dog’s future.
Therefore in the interests of calming the nerves of dog and literary fiction lovers reading The Goldfinch, I am hereby informing you that Popper survives this almost 800-page novel unharmed despite his many brushes with danger and long absences from the narrative.
And no, I did not forget the spoiler warning. The only thing this knowledge will spoil is a sadistic ride on the roller coaster of fear for an innocent little Maltese dog. Knowing Popper’s fate does not in any way affect the outcome of the rest of The Goldfinch.
Rest reassured dear Reader, Popper lives to a ripe old age.