When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given an opportunity of a lifetime- even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
Excerpt taken from book cover.
Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking
Two women drink wine at a party. It is a special concoction that has fewer calories and more alcohol. “Everyone was quickly blitzed…” One of the women is obviously very drunk and goes searching for more wine. She finds a vodka-and-energy-drink but searches still for wine. A man says he has stashed some in a waterfall and he retrieves a few bottles for her. He opens one entire bottle for her and another for himself. Jello shots are served on the shuttle bus home.
A man’s mother did drugs when he was young.
A mother and daughter have some sherry while on vacation with their family.
Two people on a date drink beer.
A man drinks a beer at his ex-girlfriend’s house.
A man and woman on a barge have a cocktail and invite another woman to have one.
A man drinks sake before bed each night to help him sleep. A woman he’s with thinks it’s sad but realizes she will try it the next night also. They drink it together socially also.
A woman drinks her second glass of wine at a social gathering. She then goes in search of wine for her and a man she is talking with, bringing back two glasses. He also has two glasses of wine. The woman gets very tipsy and knows bad decisions would ensue but continues drinking anyway.
A father offers his daughter vino when she comes home to visit. While sitting at dinner she pours herself two glasses of wine.
There is wine tasting as a social event on The Circle campus.
At social events, a woman changes her drinking habits to one drink instead of multiple due to cameras watching her every move. At one event she allows herself a second glass of wine.
While trying to go to bed one night, she pours herself some sake, admittedly too much and tried to sleep. Then pours herself some more.
At a wedding a woman takes a drink of her gin and tonic.
At a family dinner, the small family makes a toast.
A man offers a woman some vodka when she comes for a visit.
A couple go out for a drink where quite a few people are drinking at an outside cafe. Even a man who looks too young is there. They drink multiple drinks that night at the bar. A woman slurs and spills her drink while talking. Later, they find a quieter place for another round and a man with a large drink sits down with them. He is slurring his words but keeps drinking.
A woman’s parents regularly go out on their anniversary and get stoned, drunk and go dancing.
Intimacy, Sex, Immodesty
**There are many descriptive sexual activities in this section. I do not advise youth to read this or anyone who is sensitive to sexual situations.**
As a joke, one female friend asks a man to leave her female friend so she can kiss her on the mouth.
When one friend gets another friend a job, the friend says thank you and that her dad even says thank you. Her friend jokes that it’s weird since she’s never met him but starts asking if he’s hot, a silver fox, a swinger and if they could work something out?
A woman on a date decides she will kiss her date and does. Then she kisses him more at an intersection in the car. They then find an art museum that showcases pictures of “gigantic human haunches.” She kisses him multiple times that night knowing he wouldn’t make any moves on her. They start dating frequently after this date and often eat lunch together and find places to kiss afterward.
In a medical exam, a woman is asked if she is sexually active and if she is on birth control. She replies yes to both and is told she will be given condoms to prevent STD’s.
A woman has numerous small shrubs in her office all grown into pornographic shapes. It does not elaborate on the shapes.
During a circus show, the performers wear very threadbare costumes.
After newly meeting a man, a woman is alone with him and he pulls her close so quickly she’s not sure if he “planned a kiss or a grope or what.” But instead he flattens her against him, and with one arm around her lower back, his fingers fan down onto her buttocks. Her friend jokes he must be a low-grade molester. The same friend asks about him at one point and says, “Don’t tell me he died during sex?” though they were not sexually active.
A man says how he loves a woman’s waist. He compliments it and traces his fingers on it. Then rests his hands on her waist.
As a way to increase a man’s pulse rate, a woman unzips his pants and rubs his genitalia with her finger and watches for his pulse rise. She looked at how his pants were straining around his crotch and realizes the power she has over him, and likes it. She lunges at him and he struggles with his pants but he couldn’t get to them fast enough. He then scrambles away and crumbles on the bed, his crotch exposed. He had ejaculated and the woman thought to herself that he looked like, “a small campfire log, all of it doused in milk.” As she stood up to go, she sees his phone and realizes he has been filming them. He refuses to delete it and wants it as a memento. Because of The Circle policy, if it’s on his phone, it’s on the Cloud which means it’s accessible to anyone at The Circle. Her friend (who is high up in the company) also refuses to delete it and says the higher ups in the company look at it like it would be killing babies. There is no such thing as deleting data.
A senator “carried out trysts with a series of women” while his wife is undergoing cancer treatment.
A woman who has been drinking, takes a man’s face in her hands and kisses him. The man holds onto her waist and kisses her back. Later she goes to kiss him again but he starts kissing her mouth, cheek, neck, ear and he brings her to him where she feels his crotch hard against her stomach. He then lifts her up and she wraps her legs around him as he walks them to a bed. She remembers she has condoms and he’s grateful. He quickly pulls her pants and panties down and tosses them aside. He buries his face in her stomach, his hands hold the back of her thighs, his fingers crawl “upward, inward.” No details beyond that are given. When he leaves her, he kisses her four times in the the shape of the cross; forehead, chin then each cheek.
A woman’s boyfriend calls her on the phone and says he will meet her in the bathroom, the only place without cameras. She checks her purse for a condom. She decides she wants him to take her in the stall and that it would be exciting. He comes in, locks the door and kisses her passionately. He touches her stomach and thighs, then she takes his hands inward and up. He kisses her neck and licks it, while he takes off her skirt and pushes himself into her. She “came” and so did he, they are gasping and shuddering but silent. They know what they’ve done is seriously wrong within the company and they could be fired but they laugh. They kiss and he leaves. She then texts her friend to brag about the encounter which she has done before. She refers to him as VIGOROUS in the stall.
A man has a gay brother that had a really hard time coming out to his family.
A woman sees her boyfriend from afar and wonders if she can get him into a bathroom. She wants to be back in the bathroom with him, “sitting on him, feeling the crown of him push through.”
While thinking of her boyfriend and missing him, a woman circles her nipples and moves her underwear to the side and tries to simulate the movements of his tongue on herself with no luck.
A daughter wonders if her father’s love of Hitchcock movies is because of the sexual tensions in the movies and if it makes him “randy.” She also makes sure to comment on social media every time she feels there is an offense to the LGBT community.
A woman walks in on her parents being intimate. She has a camera around her neck. Her mother is kneeling on the ground with her father’s genitalia in her hands. The camera caught it all and it was broadcast to thousands of viewers. Her boss in charge of the camera refuses to delete any of the data.
A woman remembers the time she made love on the edge of the Grand Canyon. No details other than he undressed her.
A man says his foster sister (15) while he was 12 was his first sexual fantasy. The woman he is with had enacted fantasies out with him before. Fantasies such as pretending to be a lost teenager who comes to a beautiful suburban home with a lonely, scantily clad housewife who was desperate for company. During this meeting, she greets him and tells him to get out of his old clothes and she could get some of her husband’s. Within seconds he was undressed, and she is on top of him. He lay beneath her for a minute or two, “letting her rise and fall.” Then he closes his eyes, went into “paroxysms, and emit(ed) a brief squeal before grunting his arrival.” He then asks her to rate him.
While out in public, a man kisses a woman with a “dry, professional kiss.”
A woman wakes up next to the man she is dating. He wakes up, kisses her, then heads to his dorm.
A man kisses a woman and grabs her hips, pulling her down to him. The woman believes they are about to have a sexual experience but just as he starts taking her shirt off, he prematurely ejaculates. He then asks the woman to rate him.
A woman finds pictures and info about her parents having an open marriage. It’s being made public. She says there is a picture of her dad with his hand on another woman’s “tit.” There is also a series of naked photos of her mother and another man.
Violence, Weapons, Crime, Blood
When a man was young, his siblings were sold to people who raped them and kept them in closets. They were then dropped down an abandoned missile silo and killed.
A man talks about a movie where a woman kills her husband and kids. He then leads into a story in Denmark where parents started putting microchips in their kids wrists to keep track of them. One day, seven children go missing and they find all seven chips, bloody, and in a bag in a parking lot. The bodies are found a week later.
While on their anniversary, a couple were most likely stoned and or drinking. They were sitting at a pier when a drunk man fell into the water. They called down to him but did nothing else to help him. They left a few minutes later and never called 911 or reported it in any way.
Potentially Intense Themes
A woman’s father has MS and is in constant pain. Many adjustments have to be made to his life and his family’s. He has many issues that happen in the story, a seizure and soiling himself are some of the few.
There is an activist showing up to get support against vaginal mutilation in Malawi.
Whenever someone complains against The Circle, they seem to be then linked to a terrorist network in Iran or someone discovers they bought child porn. They are instantly dismissed.
There is a paramilitary group in Guatemala that has been attacking villages and taking women captive. One woman had escaped and told of ritual rapes, teenage girls being made into concubines, and murders of those who do not cooperate.
A woman steals a kayak, uses it, then upon returning it, gets arrested for theft.
A caretaker is feeding a shark and is holding a lobster over a very large tank. The shark surprises her and takes it right out of her hand while she is talking, both people present are surprised she still has fingers. They then feed it a turtle.
During a joke, a woman finds a man who has gone off-grid. She uses people in a nearby town and with many other resources. In a chase, the man tries to get away and can’t so he purposefully drives his truck off a cliff and kills himself.
During a very public display, a shark eats an octopus very violently. Then also a seahorse, the thousand baby seahorses, the anemones, the coral and every living thing in the tank. These were prized animals a man had caught.
A woman is hospitalized and in a coma. She has been for months. She collapsed from sheer exhaustion or stress. She has to be hooked up to machines all day long. Another woman wants to make it possible to hear her thoughts.