The young adult novel Holes by American author Louis Sachar was published in in 1998. The narrative mainly presents the stay of American teenager and outsider Stanley Yelnats at Camp Green Lake, a reform school for delinquent youth in the Texas desert.

Stanley has been wrongly imprisoned for stealing sneakers and now is serving his sentence at Camp Green Lake: every day he has to dig a hole in the desert together with his fellow inmates. Through his clever and courageous efforts, Stanley manages to establish a friendship with one of the other youngsters. After their dangerous and adventurous escape from the camp, the story offers happy ending for both of them.

The curse of the Yelnats family

Stanley's family has been under a curse for generations. The curse was brought upon them by Stanley’s great-great-grandfather Elya Yelnats. Elya Yelnats grew up in Latvia, where he fell in love with the daughter of a farmer. However, her father did not want wanted his daughter to marry only someone who could provide him with the fattest pig for her. Since Elya came from a humble background, he asked his old friend Madame Zeroni for help.

Madame Zeroni told Elya he had to carry a piglet up the mountain every day for a year, while singing a specific song to it. In return, she demanded that he also carry her up the mountain at the end. If Elya forgot, a curse would be placed on his entire family for all eternity.

When Elya asked again for the farmer's daughter's hand in marriage, he quickly realized that he actually didn't want to marry her. He hastily emigrated to America - forgetting the promise he had made to Madame Zeroni. From that moment on, a curse was placed on the Yelnats family.

Stanley's great-grandfather, Stanley I, was the only one in the family to ever hit a brief winning streak again. He made a fortune on the American stock market - before it was stolen from him again by the famous outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow. Unlike many of her other victims, he was not killed by her but left in the desert. He managed to survive in the Texas desert for seventeen days because he found refuge on a mountain that he called the "Thumb of God".

The family misfortune is still felt even in the present. Stanley's father has worked for years as an imaginative but unsuccessful inventor. Despite countless attempts, he is unable to develop a recycling process for used sneakers. His son Stanley is affected even worse. He is sent to Camp Green Lake reform school for a theft he didn't even commit.

Camp Green Lake

On his way home from school one day, a pair of sneakers falls on Stanley's head out of nowhere. He is arrested shortly afterwards, and finds out that the sneakers belong to the famous baseball player Clyde Livingston and were stolen a few hours ago from a home for street children. No one wants to believe Stanley is innocent. He is convicted in a criminal trial and sent to Camp Green Lake reformatory for a period of eighteen months.

Camp Green Lake is a place located on a dry lake in the middle of the Texas desert. The conditions are harsh, the surroundings prison-like. Each of the delinquent youths must dig a deep hole on the dry lake every day. Only those who find something interesting can hope for a day off.

The Warden, Ms. Walker, is a brash, self-centered, and sadistic woman who is not interested in the boys' fate, but is well informed about everything that happens in the camp. She makes the youngsters dig holes not because she thinks this will improve their character, but because they might come across the lost treasure of the outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow.

The life of the outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow

The life of the notorious outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow is examined in more detail in a recurring narrative thread. Her real name was Katherine Barlow and she lived in the town of Green Lake 110 years ago. At that time, the area around what is now Camp Green Lake was not yet a desert, but a fertile landscape with a quiet little town. Katherine was a teacher at the local school and was universally popular, thanks in part to her good looks. Even the richest heir in town, Charles Walker, the grandfather of the future camp director, was interested in her. However, Katherine rejected him.

Katherine Barlow fell in love wi...

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