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In the first few chapters, we learn through flashbacks about why Cole has been sent to the island. After years of violence and trouble with the law, Cole took his criminal streak a step too far when he viciously beat a classmate of his named Peter Driscal onto the floor of his school sidewalk. Peter suffers head trauma, speech problems, and constant nightmares as consequences of Cole’s actions. Faced with the prospect of being tried as an adult and sent to prison, Cole is offered the path of Circle Justice to avoid prison by a corrections officer named Garvey. This program is of Native American origin and seeks healing of the criminal for reintroduction to society. Reluctantly, Cole agrees, and a series of “Circles” meet in order to decide his sentence. We learn that Cole’s alcoholic father physically abused Cole while he was growing up. The Circle, comprised of Garvey, Cole’s parents, Peter, Peter’s parents, and other community members, decides that by banishing Cole to a remote Alaskan island near Garvey’s ancestral hometown, they can both teach Cole a lesson and protect others from his wrath.