What does it take to heal one’s spirit and truly embrace the life that’s been given to you?
This month’s offering, “The Tenth Circle” by Jodi Picoult, poses that question and others by interweaving real-life situations with imaginative storytelling.
On the surface, the Stone family of New England seems to be an ideal little unit.
Daniel Stone, the father and main character of the book, is a graphic artist who has become known for his fresh take on comic books, appealing to a wider audience than the usual fanboys (and girls). As his career has grown and cemented his reputation as one of the world’s best comic book artists, his ideas and creativity have stopped flowing.
Mother Laura Stone is a professor who specializes in teaching Dante’s “Inferno,” and the references to the various levels of hell mirror the struggles faced by the characters in this book.
The Stones’ teenage daughter Trixie is like any other teenager, but what she endures is a catalyst for pulling her parents from the stupor and denial their lives have fallen into.
As Trixie navigates the waters of adolescence, she does what any teenager is apt to do by falling in love. What the object of her affection sees as just a passing fling, Trixie sees as the only relationship she’ll ever need. Until a night of partying ends with Trixie accusing her boyfriend — a local all-star high school athlete — of rape.
Trixie withdraws as the horrors of what has occurred take shape, and her actions cause the ruin of other lives, especially that of her alleged rapist, Jason Underhill.
Daniel is forced to confront not only the terror of what happened to his daughter, but the demons of his own upbringing in rural Alaska. His suppressed rage and regret boils to the surface as he seeks justice for his daughter.
All the while, Laura is confronted by her own secrets and betrayals.
Ultimately, each character must travel their own path, own up to their own sins, let their struggles come to light and take hold of those people that matter to them.
Picoult is one of those rare talents who can put us in the shoes of every single one of her characters, walking through their struggles as they happen.
Again, she uses Dante’s levels of hell as a mirror to the struggles people must go through in order to attain that higher understanding of self and of our own spiritual well-being.
At the end of each chapter, there are pages from Daniel Stone’s emerging new graphic novel that depicts a comic book metaphor of the story that he is currently living. The book by no means needs this added touch, but it makes it that much more enjoyable and brings even more spark to the novel.
Where “The Tenth Circle” falls just a little flat for me is in the mystery that Picoult throws in revolving around Trixie and Jason’s fates. It helps drive the story to a degree, but ultimately distracted me from the more engrossing tales. It works, but it’s almost like one more thing that Picoult is trying to stuff into an already enjoyable book.
If you choose to read “The Tenth Circle,” go back and take a closer look at the pages from Daniel’s graphic novel. Peppered throughout each section are various letters hidden in the artwork. Write down the letters to form a quote that identifies that book’s overall theme.
Next month’s selection is “Freedom” by Jonathon Franzen. If you would like to include your review of this book, please send short, two-paragraph opinion and your name and city to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail your submission to 125 N. Church Street, Lodi, CA, 95240.