The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
2006 Atria Books
Finished on March 30, 2016
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
Trixie Stone is fourteen years old and in love for the first time. She's also the light of her father's life--a straight-A student; a freshman in high school who is pretty and popular; a girl who's always looked up to Daniel Stone as a hero. Until, that is, her world is turned upside down with a single act of violence... and suddenly everything Trixie has believed about her family--and herself--seems to be a lie.
For fifteen years, Daniel Stone has been an even-tempered, mild-mannered man: a stay-at-home dad to Trixie and a husband who has put his own career as a comic book artist behind that of his wife, Laura, who teaches Dante's Inferno at a local college. But years ago, he was completely different: growing up as the only white boy in an Eskimo village, he was teased mercilessly for the color of his skin. He learned to fight back: stealing, drinking, robbing, and cheating his way out of the Alaskan bush. To become part of a family, he reinvented himself, channeling his rage onto the page and burying his past completely... until now. Could the young boy who once made Trixie's face fill with light when he came to the door have been the one to end her childhood forever? She says that he is, and that is all it takes to make Daniel, a man with a history he has hidden even from him family, venture to hell and back in order to protect his daughter.
The Tenth Circle looks at that delicate moment when a child learns that her parents don't know all of the answers and when being a good parent means letting go of your child. It asks whether you can reinvent yourself in the course of a lifetime or if your mistakes are carried forever--if life is, as in any good comic book, a struggle to control the good and evil, or if good and evil control you.
I've read quite a few novels by Jodi Picoult, but at some point in time, I grew tired of her predictable style and ignored her new releases, as well as what I already own on my shelves. However, after thoroughly enjoying Leaving Time (Picoult's book about an elephant sanctuary), I decided to give her another try. In typical Picoult fashion, The Tenth Circle is told in alternating POVs, this time substituting an attorney with a detective. It's been five months since I finished the book and until I started to type up the publisher's blurb, the plot was long forgotten. I didn't really care for the inclusion of the graphic novel elements, but the panels weren't too intrusive or distracting.
I no longer have the worries of a parent of a teenager daughter (my daughter is a successful young woman, living in Texas), but I do have a granddaughter who just turned 14, so this passage (as well as the theme of date rape) is particularly disturbing.
On teenage girls:
He had assumed that a kid who slept with stuffed animals would not also be wearing a thong, but now it occurred to Daniel that long before any comic book penciler had conceived of Copycat or The Changeling or Mystique, shape-shifters existed in the form of teenage girls. One minute you might find your daughter borrowing a cookie sheet to go sledding in the backyard, and the next she'd be online IMing a boy. One minute she'd lean over to kiss you good night, the next she'd tell you she hated you and couldn't wait to go away to college. One minute she'd be putting on her mother's makeup, the next she'd be buying her own. Trixie had morphed back and forth between childhood and adolescence so easily that the line between them had gone blurry, so indistinct that Daniel had simply given up trying for a clearer vision.
The Tenth Circle is a compelling page-turner that kept me guessing, but it's not one I'd read again.