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The Tenth Circle

The Tenth Circle

3.8 425
by Jodi Picoult

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Jodi Picoult, the New York Times bestselling author of Vanishing Acts, offers her most powerful chronicle yet of an American family with a story that probes the unbreakable bond between parent and child -- and the dangerous repercussions of trying to play the hero.

Trixie Stone is fourteen years old and in love for the first time. She's


Jodi Picoult, the New York Times bestselling author of Vanishing Acts, offers her most powerful chronicle yet of an American family with a story that probes the unbreakable bond between parent and child -- and the dangerous repercussions of trying to play the hero.

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 his 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 good and evil, or if good and evil control you.

Editorial Reviews

This deftly written novel borrows its Dantesque title from an autobiographical graphic novel penned by its protagonist, comic book artist Daniel Stone. Like his main character, Stone grew up as a violent, alienated white outsider in an Alaskan Inuit community. Time, though, has been kind to him, and he now lives as an attentive, stay-at-home dad in Bethel, Maine. All that changes, however, when his 14-year-old daughter returns home after being raped at a party by her ex-boyfriend. With the news, Stone's emotional control dissolves and he begins a painful reentry into an inferno that he had left behind. The 13th novel by the author of Vanishing Acts and My Sister's Keeper measures up to its predecessors.
Elizabeth Hand
As Picoult notes, one in six American women will be the victim of a rape or attempted rape during her lifetime. Those who have survived a sexual assault will recognize Trixie's subsequent dissociation, the cold horror of the emergency room and police interview, the sense of a life being irrevocably broken, as well as the rage and guilt of Trixie's parents. Trixie accuses Jason of rape, but when her name is leaked to local media, she's ostracized and tormented by her schoolmates, who accuse her of having been a willing participant.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Some of Picoult's best storytelling distinguishes her twisting, metaphor-rich 13th novel (after Vanishing Acts) about parental vigilance gone haywire, inner demons and the emotional risks of relationships. Comic book artist Daniel Stone is like the character in his graphic novel with the same title as this book-once a violent youth and the only white boy in an Alaskan Inuit village, now a loving, stay-at-home dad in Bethel, Maine-traveling figuratively through Dante's circles of hell to save his 14-year-old teenage daughter, Trixie. After she accuses her ex-boyfriend of rape, Trixie-and Daniel, whose fierce father-love morphs to murderous rage toward her assailant-unravel in the aftermath of the allegation. At the same time, wife and mother Laura, a Dante scholar, tries to mend her and Daniel's marriage after ending her affair with one of her students. Picoult has collaborated with graphic artist Dustin Weaver to illustrate her deft, complex exploration of Daniel and his beast within, but the drawings, though well-done, distract from the powerful picture she has drawn with words. Laura and Daniel follow their runaway daughter to Alaska, at which point Picoult drives the story with the heavy-handed Dante metaphor-not the characters. Still, this story of a flawed family on the brink of destruction grips from start to finish. 20-city author tour. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When a comic book artist married to a Dante scholar writes a graphic novel, what better title than The Tenth Circle? Of course, Daniel Stone feels he's descended into hell when his 14-year-old daughter, Trixie, is date raped by Jason Underhill. Despite his soft and gentle Maine demeanor, Daniel had a wild and violent past growing up in Alaska, and letting the police investigation proceed is setting off a rage he had long suppressed. The night of the attack, he also learns his wife, Laura, is having an affair. Hell would be preferable. Picoult's (Vanishing Acts) latest novel actually features Daniel's artwork in a tale that parallels his real life, and readers are drawn into the mystery surrounding the events of the rape and its subsequent effects on all concerned. What truths will be revealed? And who, ultimately, will find justice? Picoult had this reader up until the very end of this fast-paced tale. As with her previous novels (e.g., My Sister's Keeper), Picoult doesn't guarantee a happy ending, but something here just missed its mark. Still, this best-selling author is going to be in demand. Recommended for most public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/05.]-Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Picoult (Vanishing Act, 2005, etc.) fumbles in this 13th novel of, predictably, a family in crisis. To all outward appearances, the family Stone seems a happy trio: Mother Laura teaches Dante at the local university; her 14-year-old Trixie is popular, dating the town's high school hockey hero Jason Underhill; and Daniel, a stay-at-home dad, has finally hit it big with the debut of his own comic book, The Tenth Circle. Inspired by his wife's work, Daniel's hero Duncan/Wildclaw descends into hell in search of his kidnapped daughter (sections of the comic book, illustrated by Dustin Weaver, appear at the end of each chapter). As his alter ego tours the circles of hell with Virgil, Daniel's family begins to unravel: On the night that Trixie is raped by her boyfriend, Daniel discovers Laura has been having an affair with a student. Picoult usually infuses a bit of suspense into her dramas, and this effort is no different as Trixie's testimony comes into question-is Trixie just out for revenge on the boyfriend who dumped her? As the DA and detective try to build a rape case, Trixie becomes ostracized at school, continues to self-mutilate and then finally attempts suicide. She's saved in time, but soon after her recovery, Jason is found dead, and it's beginning to look like Trixie killed him. Afraid she'll be charged with Jason's murder, Trixie runs away to the Alaskan Eskimo village where Daniel was raised (and tormented as the only white boy), forcing Daniel to confront his past, save his daughter, save his marriage and make everything okay in the universe, as every superhero should. As a third-act whodunit-the culprit is an easy guess-the story fails. Picoult, who is so often an inventive andcompelling storyteller, relies here on convention and sentimentality.
From the Publisher
"When it comes to the freeze-frame of a family caught in the headlights of loss and irreversible regret, Picoult has no equal." — Jacquelyn Mitchard

"The worlds Picoult creates for her characters resonate with authenticity, and the people who inhabit them are so engaging." — People

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Read an Excerpt


December 23, 2005

This is how it feels when you realize your child is missing: The pit of your stomach freezes fast, while your legs go to jelly. There's one single, blue-bass thud of your heart. The shape of her name, sharp as metal filings, gets caught between your teeth even as you try to force it out in a shout. Fear breathes like a monster into your ear: Where did I see her last? Would she have wandered away? Who could have taken her? And then, finally, your throat seals shut, as you swallow the fact that you've made a mistake you will never be able to fix.

The first time it happened to Daniel Stone, a decade ago, he had been visiting Boston. His wife was at a colloquium at Harvard; that was a good enough reason to take a family vacation. While Laura sat on her panel, Daniel pushed Trixie's stroller the cobbled length of the Freedom Trail. They fed the ducks in the Public Garden; they watched the sloe-eyed sea turtles doing water ballet at the aquarium. After that, when Trixie announced that she was hungry, Daniel headed toward Faneuil Hall and its endless food court.

That particular April day was the first one warm enough for New Englanders to unzip their jackets, to remember that there was any season other than winter. In addition to the centipedes of school groups and the shutter-happy tourists, it seemed that the whole of the financial district had bled out, men Daniel's age in suits and ties, who smelled of aftershave and envy. They sat with their gyros and chowder and corned beef on rye on the benches near the statue of Red Auerbach. They sneaked sideways glances at Daniel.

He was used to this -- it was unusual for a father to be the primary caretaker of his four-year-old daughter. Women who saw him with Trixie assumed that his wife had died, or that he was newly divorced. Men who saw him quickly looked the other way, embarrassed on his behalf. And yet Daniel would not have traded his setup for the world. He enjoyed molding his job around Trixie's schedule. He liked her questions: Did dogs know they were naked? Is adult supervision a power grown-ups use to fight bad guys? He loved the fact that when Trixie was spacing out in her car seat and wanted attention, she always started with "Dad. . . ?" even if Laura happened to be driving the car.

"What do you want for lunch?" Daniel asked Trixie that day in Boston. "Pizza? Soup? A burger?"

She stared up at him from her stroller, a miniature of her mother with the same blue eyes and strawberry hair, and nodded yes to all three. Daniel had hefted the stroller up the steps to the central food court, the scent of the salted ocean air giving way to grease and onions and stir-fry. He would get Trixie a burger and fries, he decided, and for himself, he'd buy a fisherman's platter at another kiosk. He stood in line at the grill, the stroller jutting out like a stone that altered the flow of human traffic. "A cheeseburger," Daniel yelled out to a cook he hoped was listening. When he was handed the paper plate he juggled his wallet free so that he could pay and then decided that it wasn't worth a second tour of duty just to get himself lunch, too. He and Trixie could share.

Daniel maneuvered the stroller into the stream of people again, waiting to be spit out into the cupola. After a few minutes, an elderly man sitting at a long table shuffled his trash together and left. Daniel set down the burger and turned the stroller so that he could feed Trixie -- but the child inside was a dark-haired, dark-skinned infant who burst into tears when he saw the stranger in front of him.

Daniel's first thought: Why was this baby in Trixie's stroller? His second: Was this Trixie's stroller? Yes, it was yellow and blue with a tiny repeating bear print. Yes, there was a carrying basket underneath. But Graco must have sold millions of these, thousands alone in the Northeast. Now, at closer inspection, Daniel realized that this particular stroller had a plastic activity bar attached on the front. Trixie's ratty security blanket was not folded up in the bottom, just in case of crisis.

Such as now.

Daniel looked down at the baby again, the baby that was not his, and immediately grabbed the stroller and starting running to the grill. Standing there, with a cabbage-cheeked Boston cop, was a hysterical mother whose sights homed in on the stroller Daniel was using to part the crowd like the Red Sea. She ran the last ten feet and yanked her baby out of the safety restraint and into her arms while Daniel tried to explain, but all that came out of his mouth was, "Where is she?" He thought, hysterical, of the fact that this was an open-air market, that there was no way to seal the entrance or even make a general public announcement, that by now five minutes had passed and his daughter could be with the psychopath who stole her on the T heading to the farthest outskirts of the Boston suburbs.

Then he noticed the stroller -- his stroller -- kicked over onto its side, the safety belt undone. Trixie had gotten proficient at this just last week. It had gotten comical -- they would be out walking and suddenly she was standing up in the fabric hammock, facing Daniel, grinning at her own clever expertise. Had she freed herself to come looking for him? Or had someone, seeing a golden opportunity for abduction, done it for her?

In the moments afterward, there were tracts of time that Daniel couldn't remember even to this day. For example, how long it took the swarm of police that converged on Faneuil Hall to do a search. Or the way other mothers pulled their own children close to their side as he passed, certain bad luck was contagious. The detective's hammered questions, a quiz of good parenting: How tall is Trixie? What does she weigh? What was she wearing? Have you ever talked to her about strangers? This last one, Daniel couldn't answer. Had he, or had he just been planning to? Would Trixie know to scream, to run away? Would she be loud enough, fast enough?

The police wanted him to sit down, so that they'd know where to find him if necessary. Daniel nodded and promised, and then was on his feet the moment their backs were turned. He searched behind each of the food kiosks in the central court. He looked under the tables in the cupola. He burst into the women's bathroom, crying Trixie's name. He checked beneath the ruffled skirts of the pushcarts that sold rhinestone earrings, moose socks, your name written on a grain of rice. Then he ran outside.

The courtyard was full of people who didn't know that just twenty feet away from them the world had been overturned. Oblivious, they shopped and milled and laughed as Daniel stumbled past them. The corporate lunch hour had ended, and many of the businessmen were gone. Pigeons pecked at the crumbs they'd left behind, caught between the cobblestones. And huddled beside the seated bronze of Red Auerbach, sucking her thumb, was Trixie.

Until Daniel saw her, he didn't truly realize how much of himself had been carved away by her absence. He felt -- ironically -- the same symptoms that had come the moment he knew she was missing: the shaking legs, the loss of speech, the utter immobility. "Trixie," he said finally, then she was in his arms, thirty pounds of sweet relief.

Now -- ten years later -- Daniel had again mistaken his daughter for someone she wasn't. Except this time, she was no longer a four-year-old in a stroller. This time, she had been gone much longer than twenty-four minutes. And she had left him, instead of the other way around.

Forcing his mind back to the present, Daniel cut the throttle of the snow machine as he came to a fork in the path. Immediately the storm whipped into a funnel -- he couldn't see two feet in front of himself, and when he took the time to look behind, his tracks had already been filled, a seamless stretch. The Yup'ik Eskimos had a word for this kind of snow, the kind that bit at the back of your eyes and landed like a hail of arrows on your bare skin: pirrelvag. The term rose in Daniel's throat, as startling as a second moon, proof that he had been here before, no matter how good a job he'd done of convincing himself otherwise.

He squinted -- it was nine o'clock in the morning, but in December in Alaska, there wasn't much sunlight. His breath hung before him like lace. For a moment, through the curtain of snow, he thought he could see the bright flash of her hair -- a fox's tail peeking from a snug woolen cap -- but as quickly as he saw it, it was gone.

The Yupiit also had a word for the moments when it was so cold that a mug of water thrown into the air would harden like glass before it ever hit the frozen ground: cikuq'erluni. One wrong move, Daniel thought, and everything will go to pieces around me. So he closed his eyes, gunned the machine, and let instinct take over. Almost immediately, the voices of elders he used to know came back to him -- spruce needles stick out sharper on the north side of trees; shallow sandbars make the ice buckle -- hints about how to find yourself, when the world changed around you.

He suddenly thought back to the way, at Faneuil Hall, Trixie had melted against him when they were reunited. Her chin had notched just behind his shoulder, her body went boneless with faith. In spite of what he'd done, she'd still trusted him to keep her safe, to bring her home. In hindsight, Daniel could see that the real mistake he'd made that day hadn't been turning his back momentarily. It had been believing that you could lose someone you loved in an instant, when in reality it was a process that took months, years, her lifetime.

It was the kind of cold that made your eyelashes freeze the minute you walked outside and the insides of your nostrils feel like shattered glass. It was the kind of cold that went through you as if you were no more than a mesh screen. Trixie Stone shivered on the frozen riverbank beneath the school building that was checkpoint headquarters in Tuluksak, sixty miles from the spot where her father's borrowed snow machine was carving a signature across the tundra, and tried to think up reasons to stay right where she was.

Unfortunately, there were more reasons -- better reasons -- to leave. First and foremost, it was a mistake to stay in one place too long. Second, sooner or later, people were going to figure out that she wasn't who they thought she was, especially if she kept screwing up every task they gave her. But then again, how was she supposed to know that all the mushers were entitled to complimentary straw for their sled dogs at several points during the K300 racecourse, including here in Tuluksak? Or that you could take a musher to the spot where food and water was stored. . . but you weren't allowed to help feed the dogs? After those two fiascos, Trixie was demoted to babysitting the dogs that were dropped from a team, until the bush pilots arrived to transport them back to Bethel.

So far the only dropped dog was a husky named Juno. Frostbite -- that was the official reason given by the musher. The dog had one brown eye and one blue eye, and he stared at Trixie with an expression that spoke of being misunderstood.

In the past hour, Trixie had managed to sneak Juno an extra handful of kibble and a couple of biscuits, stolen from the vet's supply. She wondered if she could buy Juno from the musher with some of the money left over in the stolen wallet. She thought maybe it would be easier to keep running if she had someone else to confide in, someone who couldn't possibly tell on her.

She wondered what Zephyr and Moss and anyone else back home in the other Bethel -- Bethel, Maine -- would say if they saw her sitting in a snowbank and eating salmon jerky and listening for the crazy fugue of barking that preceded the arrival of a dog team. Probably, they would think she had lost her mind. They'd say, Who are you, and what have you done with Trixie Stone? The thing is, she wanted to ask the same question.

She wanted to crawl into her favorite flannel pajamas, the ones that had been washed so often they were as soft as the skin of a rose. She wanted to open up the refrigerator and not be able to find anything on its stocked shelves worth eating. She wanted to get sick of a song on the radio and smell her father's shampoo and trip over the curly edge of the rug in the hallway. She wanted to go back -- not just to Maine, but to early September.

Trixie could feel tears rising in her throat like the watermarks on the Portland dock, and she was afraid someone would notice. So she lay down on the matted straw, her nose nearly touching Juno's. "You know," she whispered, "I got left behind once, too."

Her father didn't think she remembered what had happened that day in Faneuil Hall, but she did -- bits and pieces cropped up at the strangest times. Like when they went to the beach in the summer and she smelled the ocean: It suddenly got harder to breathe. Or how at hockey games and movie theaters and other places where she got mixed up in a crowd, she sometimes felt sick to her stomach. Trixie remembered, too, that they had abandoned the stroller at Faneuil Hall -- her father simply carried her back in his arms. Even after they returned from vacation and bought a new stroller, Trixie had refused to ride in it.

Here's what she didn't remember about that day: the getting-lost part. Trixie could not recall unbuckling the safety harness or pushing through the shifting sea of legs to the doors that led outside. Then, she saw the man who looked like he might be her father but who actually turned out to be a statue sitting down. Trixie had walked to the bench and climbed up beside him only to realize that his metal skin was warm, because the sun had been beating down on it all day. She'd curled up against the statue, wishing with every shaky breath that she would be found.

This time around, that's what scared her most. Copyright ©2006 by Jodi Picoult

Meet the Author

Jodi Picoult received an AB in creative writing from Princeton and a master’s degree in education from Harvard. The recipient of the 2003 New England Book Award for her entire body of work, she is the author of twenty-one novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers House Rules, Handle With Care, Change of Heart, and My Sister’s Keeper, for which she received the American Library Association’s Margaret Alexander Edwards Award. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. Visit her website at JodiPicoult.com.

Brief Biography

Hanover, New Hampshire
Date of Birth:
May 19, 1966
Place of Birth:
Nesconset, Long Island, NY
A.B. in Creative Writing, Princeton University; M.A. in Education, Harvard University

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The Tenth Circle 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 425 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thanks to the person at the bottom for giving away what happens in the book!!!! Think before you write next time, people read reviews to see if its a book they want to buy! Ugh!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jodi Picoult's THE TENTH CIRCLE verges on genius for a new literary style to add to her tight rope walking ideas that she always presents in her books. Her new book is 10% cartoon book which covers all the intricacies of Dante's Inferno with the wonderful style of the adult superhero cartoonest. Once again she presents a book that is a must do for all reading groups. What would we be willing to do for our child? Do we have any control over our darker, vengeful sides? Can we learn from mistakes and become better people? Are human being redeemable? Parental angst for the life styles of our teenagers is played out extremely well in this very compelling story line. I would recommend that anyone who has not not found Jodi Picoult should go right out and pick up all thirteen of her easy reading, thought provoking, timely issues books. A superhero winner, Jodi Pidoult!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you read the ridiciously long reviews that some people write practically giving away the whole story, without any regard of other people who have not read the book yet. Rude and insensitive. My only advice, DO NOT READ THEIR REVIEWS!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read several of Jodi Picoult's books and have been hooked from chapter 1. Not so much here. I found it hard to stay interested. When I turned the page and faced the prologue, I turned back thinking I had skipped a chapter. The book didn't end...it just stopped. Disappointing
Jenna Slade More than 1 year ago
Good read but wasnt surprised with ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As usual Picoult gives us a great, well researched read...but wasn't as much an "I just can't put this book down" as some of her others have been for me. I would still recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book, like many other Picoult books, not only takes you through the journey that each individual character is experiencing but you also learn so much more about the passion of each of the characters themselves. I love the way she incorperates that into her writing so you feel like you are learning something effortlessly as you enjoy falling in love with her charaters and what makes them who they are.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My book club read the synopsis and thought it sounded like a good book. It was almost painful to get through without a glimmer of happiness in it. Every page seemed to bring more tragedy and gloom. I made myself finish it, but it was hard to do so.
Brigette Robinson More than 1 year ago
I couldnt put this book down at all! I love this book! Ive read many of jodis books and this ones the best! Must read! I really wish that it continued, i wanna know if trixie ever met up with willie again! So sweet! :D
GardenerGal More than 1 year ago
I'm currently reading another book by this author & it definitely doesn't stand up to this one's originality. This book flows better from chapter to chapter and each character is anything but a cookie-cutter personality. It had depth that I never would have imagined before opening this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This has become one of my favorite books. THE TENTH CIRCLE was a quick read and kept me on my toes! The book took so many unexpected turns that I couldn't put it down. The 'secret' at the very end of the book was quite frustrating until I figured it out. You'll just have to wait and figure it out yourself! A definite 5-star read!
Anonymous 9 days ago
Love this book
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Slow read but worth it
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I enjoyed the book very much. I did have trouble with the comic portions and never did find the quote. Was worth the read though
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Aything by jodi I just adore. Fantastic book, I suggest you read it!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I used to enjoy her books but they all follow the same formula!! Family + troubled or sick kid + courtroom! Repitition with different names of characters has made her a best seller but she's no literary giant.