Holes by Louis Sachar

Holes book by louis sachar

If you’re looking for an easy read then Holes by Louis Sachar is for you. It’s a children’s book as it’s simply written with a straightforward, easy to follow plot. 

Synopsis

  • A boy called Stanley Yelnats is sent to a detention centre for a crime he did not commit
  • He and his family blame the bad luck in their family because of a curse put on his great-great grandfather
  • At the detention centre him and other guys are digging holes
  • He makes friends and slowly deciphers the reason behind digging is that the Warden is looking for something
  • The digging and his curse are intertwined and the book gives us parts of the story throughout
  • Stanley’s great-great grandfather loved a girl and has sought a pig to present to her father, who would allow the man with the biggest pig to marry her
  • Madame Zeroni gave him a pig he could nurture to grow large as long as he promised to take her up the mountain and sing a song she taught him
  • Stanley’s great-great grandfather realises he no longer loves the girl and forgets his promise
  • He journeys to America and believes he is now cursed because he didn’t fulfil his promise
  • We then find out about the history of the lake where Stanley is digging holes.
  • Hundred and ten years prior, the town is nothing like the desert that it is now. Instead, it’s full of life and blooming.
  • A white schoolteacher and black onion seller partake in a kiss, which the racist town-folk are unhappy about.
  • The black man is killed by the Sheriff, who the schoolteacher sought help from but he is overtaken by jealousy.
  • The lovers try to escape the town by boat, but the onion seller is killed after which the rain never falls on the town again, making it the desert that it is now.
  • Taken by grief, the schoolteacher becomes an outlaw. As she had robbed many people, one of them was Stanley’s great-grandfather. She had hidden the treasure, which has never been found.
  • Back at the juvenile centre where the town is deserted due to the lack of rain, Stanley digs as he is told and finds a lipstick tube with the initials of the schoolteacher. The information is passed on to the Warden who’s clearly interested in what Stanley has found.
  • Stanley makes friends with a boy named Zero (the descendant of  Madame Zeroni – although Stanley does not know this yet) who runs away
  • Stanley believes Zero’s life is in danger, goes after him a few days later. Finding him, Stanley helps Zero up a mountain where they find lots of onions (that seems to be the black onion seller’s garden) he sings to him as he does so
  • They soon decide to continue searching further in the hole where Stanley found the lipstick tube rather than live helpless in the desert
  • In the hole they find the treasure on which is Stanley Yelnats is written (as all the men in his family were called for generations, including his great-grandfather)
  • The Warden tried to take it off him but Stanley plainly shows that his name is written on it so it his after all. Just in time, Stanley’s lawyer arrives to tell him that he is innocent and to go home, taking him and his treasure back to his family.
  • The treasure has many riches and the family’s curse is lifted.
  • Stanley, Zero and their families have much better fortunes hence.

Stanley Yelnats

For generations the men of Stanley Yelnats were called exactly that and for a good reason too. For, after all, Stanley could not have claimed the treasure if his name was not written on it. Yelnats is Stanley spelt backwards and in my opinion provides a number of insights into the story. Firstly, the simple nature of the teen book and it’s straightforward manner. Also, the fact that it’s the opposites – per say. So the cursed become the fortunate, the bad get what they deserve and Stanley himself becomes a better individual as the book ends – becoming physically fitter.  All in all, a happy ending that’s desired.

Holes

holes book by Louis Sachar

Why call the book Holes? Well apart from the obvious, where Stanley dug holes in the juvenile centre with the other boys looking for treasure, holes could mean more than just in the literal sense. Stanley’s family ‘hole’ can be seen as their misfortune (or curse) which needed to be filled and put right, which was lifted by Stanley’s act of helping Zero up the mountain. It could even be seen as the ‘hole’ that many of the characters were trying to fill in their lives, such as The Warden looking for the prize or Zero gaining literacy skills and even a life-long friend. Most importantly however a hole is round – a continuous circle – exactly what the book portrays through the generations that had to make that loop and go back to the first promise that was made and put it right. I believe Holes presents us with a hole-like cycle of a curse.

Thoughts

Although simple and can be finished quickly, I recommend this book for children and adults alike. It’s a fun and heart-warming story that’s sure to grasp your attention. Have a go at puzzling out the hints that the author feeds you. Have you read it yet? Tell me what you think.

Alina is the founder and writer of The Fairytale Pretty Picture blog whilst working full time as an SEO specialist at a growing online-only retailer called Amara. She owns a beautiful white Alsatian and lives in Essex with her husband.

3 Comments

  • March 1, 2014

    Andy Phipps

    When I read this at school, I didn’t like it as we read small chunks at a time and the book is fragmented into the different stories and point of views. This way, it can be quite disorientating but I imagine the variation in reading formats would appeal now as an adult who would read it day to day. It’s the style what I would call ‘American Gothic’, similar to the plays Trout Stanley and Vernon God Little.You aren’t given all the information but that means you focus more on the information given, taking nothing for granted, making the narrative richer and more dense. Thanks for your comprehensive summary! It certainly makes more sense now 🙂

    • March 1, 2014

      Alina

      Thanks for your comment. Wow, I’ve never thought of describing the book as American Gothic! I see it as a simple young adult/ children’s story and an adventure book. What characteristics make you think it’s that genre then?

      • March 15, 2014

        Andy Phipps

        Haha, you’re putting me to task now! I think it’s because it has an atmosphere of suspense and anticipation. Not in a highly wrought way but it’s there. Also it has ancient prophecy and omen, whereby we are almost given a set of rules to apply to the character of Stanley in the form of the family curse. In reality, it’s nothing but we are lead to believe it and to not ignore it. Also the folklore around the history of the teacher and the onion seller and the magical lady and the pig can be seen as gothic. Finally, apart from the fact it’s set in the US, you have the overwhelming setting of the ‘outside’. European gothic is famous for it’s haunted castles and houses but American gothic will have whole towns, American Indian burial grounds or cursed rivers. Holes has this land that hides stories and history and loses no pull in becoming a waste land. I think it’s got an air of what I call ‘American Gothic’ because you are placed in this bubble world where you are asked to accept information, some mundane and some fantastical and it’s so very atmospheric in that sense. Which, again, why reading 10 pages twice a week probably felt so frustrating when trying to engage in school 🙂 lol.