Relax, dog lovers, Popper cheats death in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

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.

28 thoughts on “Relax, dog lovers, Popper cheats death in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

  1. Thank you!! I am listening to The Goldfinch as an audiobook and I couldn’t bear the suspense of not knowing whether Popchik survives his latest adventure. If he were to be seriously harmed, it would have such awful implications for the plot, I might not be able to finish the book.

  2. Thank you so much for this. This book is so good I feel like I’m inside it, but my enjoyment of the second section has been so tempered; I’m nauseated anytime Popper is in the scene. Now I can relax and enjoy the book (I just need another few minutes, though, I only just finished the section where Boris’s dad comes in with the cane, and my tummy is still in knots a little bit)

    • It’s amazing how much thanks I’m getting for this post. Emails as well as comments. That whole Popper plot line was definitely hugely nerve wracking for us dog lovers.

  3. Thank you so much. Theo and Popchyk have just said goodbye to Boris and I didn’t want to read any further in case the little dog came to harm now I can get back into it.

    • Me too. At the same place in the book and ready to put it down for good because I couldn’t stand the worry. Then it occurred to me that some kind soul would do just what the initial poster did. Thank you so much.

  4. What a huge relief! I’m listening to it now and have been so nervous for little Popchik. Now I can relax while I finish it! Also, since I’m listening to it, I was really curious about the spelling his name. Thank you!!

    • Thanks for your comment. I’ve been wondering why so many people here were listening to the audio book as opposed to reading the Goldfinch, and then it finally clicked. With an audio book, you can’t skip ahead and ensure that Popper survives.

      Re, the spelling, Tartt uses both Popchik and Popchyk.

  5. Seriously, I have been dreading picking up the book since Popper arrived on the scene. You have made it safe for me to read again!

  6. Thank you. I’m reading the book a couple of weekse now and the fear that something terrible would happen to Popper made me not want to read the book a lot of times…I could not bear the feeling if somebody would hurt Popper to get even to Theo.

  7. I love you to pieces for writing this. Nobody in my circle of friends would answer this, for fear of spoiling the plot, so I was about to return my borrowed copy once the mobster showed up on the doorstep. THANK YOU!

  8. I have a little white/champagne maltese of my own—my stomach knotted whenever the poor thing came up in the story. Broke my heart that she was left alone for two weeks, imagining my own sweet pup being abused in some horrid alternate universe. Now I may finish the book in peace—THANK YOU!

  9. I was so moved by Popper and Boris’ reunion. I’m glad to know I’m not the only person to panic when pets and animals appear in movies and books. I’ve felt this way ever since “Black Beauty” and “Old Yeller,” to date myself horribly. My ten year old niece enjoyed “Homeward Bound: the Incredible Journey”. I fled after ten minutes and waited for her and her mother in the lobby. A few years later, I munched on popcorn and sat placidly through the “Saw” films. I’ve know I’ve missed out on some great films. And I’m completely at peace with that realisation.

    • LOL re Saw movies.

      Curious why you didn’t mention Bambi’s mother? I remember weeping hysterically over that one at age seven or so. Still think it was sadistic to do that to kids.

  10. Thank you for this! I too dreaded the fate of poor popper. It drove me to the point of an Internet search with my fingers crossed hoping there would be some clue out there. It would spoil the book for me to read he was murdered.

  11. Popchyk was the only character that I cared about in the whole book, my heart in my mouth for the duration of the Greyhound bus journey across the US. He must have been about 200, in dog years, by the end of the novel though.

  12. Hahahaha, I can’t believe this post actually exists. I seriously always think I’m crazy for getting twisted up at the mention of an animal in a book as suspenseful as Goldfinch. I really do feel so so so much better about continuing on with the book. Also I’m really glad there are more crazy dog lovers out there in the world. What a great thing the Internet is. Read on!

  13. Lol oh man! i’m so glad I Google’d this. I literally put the book down last week out of despair for the darn dog. Now I can finish reading!

  14. Hi,

    Oh boy thank you sooooo much for this. I am listening to The Goldfinch and Popper has not been mentioned for so long I began to fear I must have slept through his demise! I was dreading going back through to find out… Now I can continue enjoying this lovely listen. 🙂

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