The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson

The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel by Patti Laboucane-Benson

Title: The Outside Circle
Author: Patti Laboucane-Benson
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Graphic novels
Dates read: 31st July 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Graphic novel
Publisher: Anansi
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: Open Up!

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Pete, a young Aboriginal man wrapped up in gang violence, lives with his younger brother, Joey, and his mother who is a heroin addict. One night, Pete and his mother’s boyfriend, Dennis, get into a big fight, which sends Dennis to the morgue and Pete to jail. Initially, Pete keeps up ties to his crew, until a jail brawl forces him to realize the negative influence he has become on Joey, which encourages him to begin a process of rehabilitation that includes traditional Aboriginal healing circles and ceremonies.

Powerful, courageous, and deeply moving, The Outside Circle is drawn from the author’s twenty years of work and research on healing and reconciliation of gang-affiliated or incarcerated Aboriginal men.


This is a seriously powerful graphic novel. Normally a graphic novel of this size, I’ll rip through in one sitting. One happy, intense and fun sitting. But, nevertheless, I don’t normally dwell over graphic novels as much. And I certainly don’t normally have to put it down at regular intervals to gain a better headspace because of intensity. It’s not just the storyline. The images in this are also incredibly potent, powerful and brilliant.

The colours throughout this graphic novel are absolutely gorgeous. I loved all of the natural tones that fill the pages and the way in which the different tones change. Particularly from beginning (more reds and angry colours) to end (natural, calmer colours). The imagery, partnered with the storyline and the colouring turned this from a story that I would have enjoyed anyway, but ended up being completely drawn into in an unforgettable way.

At the conclusion of this novel, I found out that the whole journey throughout is based on a real program that is available in Canada to their Indigenous Peoples. It seems like such a great program and I just loved the fact that this gave a nice level of realism to the story line. It also made me feel hopeful for the many, many, many Indigenous peoples who are in similar positions.

Not only did this make me seriously think about the Indigenous people of Canada and America, it also made me think about our own First Nations People. And the ways in which we could maybe have a similar program for them one day. Or… maybe we already do, and I’m just ignorant…

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Image source: Goodreads

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