The Goldfinch, reaches out to the many teenagers affected by the contemporary epidemic of domestic terrorist attacks that leave them without a parent, sometimes the only parent they know. Bookshelves are stocked with options in terrorist attacks and how people deal with them. What sets Donna Tartt’s novel apart from all the others on the shelves is her remarkable approach to answer the question, what happens when a teenage single child, survives a terrorist attack and his only loving parent dies. Beyond novel, this story has been identified as important and relevant to the current climate of American and is in production for film development.
This story reaches out to a few audiences. The first and foremost is the young adult target audience who can identify with being a teenager who suffers a loss. Secondly, the reader who has an appreciation for art, details, and human-interest stories could equally have something to enjoy in Tartt’s novel, to film adaptation.
This novel is not the first, last, or only novel that takes on the weighted subject matter of terrorism in the young adult arena. Several other authors have approached this topic with varied success and angle. The differences may even be in minutiae, but it is The Goldfinch alone that sets its main character an unintended heroes journey to grow up into a man that his mother would have been proud of while being void of a role model to guide him through grief, life, love, and development.
This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp went to number one on the New York Times Bestseller list with the story about a teenager who opens fire in an Alabama high school. This young adult novel, albeit a great addition to the literary canon of novels about terrorism and its effects on teenagers, this story is from the perspective of the teenager committing the terrorist act, which might not be received well in American Cinema. In The Goldfinch, Theo is the victim of terrorism, not the perpetrator of it. This is the kind of story that plays well to audiences and to industry professionals.
Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz was written about a terrorist sniper during the September 11th attack and how it affects two teen characters, each has the other throughout the whole ordeal. This story might not be as relatable to a cinematic audience, due to the human psychology that resorts to every man for him/her self-mentality and how these scenarios might play out. Think of the popularity of The Walking Dead for example. People love to play out the what might happen if I were in this situation scenarios and they usually begin with them being alone in the time of crisis. Tartt’s novel pulls from the perspective of being an only child with a single mother who his forced to deal with everything on his own when he is not legally in charge of his own life while trying to figure out grief. This storyline plays right into this mentality and base primal fear of being alone in a time of crisis.
My Sister Lives on The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher approaches a terrorist attack and its effects on a family five years post incident. Unlike The Goldfinch, this novel looks at the whole family years later, while Theo lives in the moments preceding, during, and then post effects of a terrorist attack on his life, alone. So although audiences may like a story like Pitcher’s, it is a gamble. Tartt’s is a solid chance. Tartt’s unique perspective demands a platform that showcases her talent to capture grief and growth. This is what made Tartt’s novel a prime candidate for film adaptation.
Film adaptations are a unique breed of cinematic options in healing tools. The source material already exists, has its own established audience, and not just for the material, but the author. So even if someone isn’t a fan of an author’s first book, but they are of their third book, they will see the film adaptation regardless. It is easy to tap into their audience, but how you hold it, engage it, and carry it through to financial success in the film is entirely dependent on how it is marketed and delivers on its promise. Great films have spawned from flopped novels and successful novels have spawned flopped films. A great screenwriter and director can make or break a film. The Goldfinch has its own well-established audience, let us wait and see if the film adaptation delivers.
When educators/therapists/parents/guardians/friends/family and others are looking at therapeutic tools to use for healing themselves and others who have undergone a trauma caused by terrorist attacks film adaptations isn’t an automatic go to. This often overlooked an untapped resource can be incredibly useful when trying to reach different people and at different stages of grief and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Some people prefer to read a book to gain insight into healing, while others look towards a good two-hour healing movie to get through a rough patch. Others turn to the movie after reading the book and vice versa. With words and images available to tell stories of those that have been through experiences that may mirror the trauma of an individual or at the very least mirror their emotional take away in a character, novels and films are invaluable resources for healing. These novels that were adapted into films provide just a glimpse into the options available for post-terror healing. As time marches on, with more and more trauma being all over the world’s fingertips on social media and nightly news, finding unconventional methods to process and heal through the traumas of everyday life may become the healthiest new habit to develop in order to survive the equivalent of a zombie apocalyptic attack on our emotions. Survive by finding out how that is possible in the aftermath of a great character’s journey.
Moskowitz, Hannah. Gone, Gone, Gone. Simon Pulse Publishing. April 12, 2012.
Nijkamp, Marieke. This Is Where It Ends. Sourcebooks, Inc. January 5, 2016.
Pitcher, Annabel. My Sister Lives on The Mantelpiece. Little Brown Books. October 8,
Thompson, John B. Merchants of Culture. A Plume Book. 2012.