For Martha, who is landlocked in Arkansas during the 1960s and ’70s, the Gulf of Mexico is a pirate’s paradise of monkeys swinging from coconut trees and Texas girls in grass skirts, shaking their hips to the hula. Martha and her best friend, Spoon, plan to run away to the Gulf and star in an all-girls’ band as soon as they graduate from high school. In Sherry Clements’ debut novel, The Holdouts, it takes more than a dream of hula-ing on the beach for Martha to navigate the religiosity of her whacky, dysfunctional, working-class family and the put-downs of her white-bread peers.
Spirited Martha is the daughter of Pixie, a born-again Christian so possessed by her love of the Lord that she marches in her wedding dress to the storefront God’s House of Whole Truth to marry Jesus. Martha’s maternal grand¬mother is one of the few stable family influences, if you can call “stable” a woman who chews tobacco, wears rubber boots and overalls and lives to catch catfish in the Arkansas River, alongside the “born-agains” getting their dose of faith and silt in the muddy embrace of the Living Waters. Martha has a father, true, but he’s a hard-headed man, not moved by his wife’s pleas to come to Jesus nor motivated to provide Martha and her younger brother, Spencer, with a loving alternative to their mother’s religious zeal. He takes off to find his own brand of salvation, leaving Martha and her family with a Bible, a pot of pinto beans, and a refrigerator that only kicks in when the spirit moves it.
Causes Sherry Clements Supports
Natural Resources Defense Council, American Civil Liberties Union, Kiva.org, Nature Conservancy, Families Intl. USA, The Innocence Project