Hole in My Life Summary

Jack Gantos

Hole in My Life

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

Hole in My Life Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos.

In his autobiography, Hole in My Life, Jack Gantos chronicles his reckless youth, which lands him in prison, where he moves from wanting to be a writer to writing.

In the first part of the book, Jack is in prison. He writes about the brutal convicts he observes there and working in the hospital where he is an x-ray technician. While he works, patients tell him about the violence in their lives. He flashes back to his childhood, when his father would point out everyone else’s wrongs. While in prison, he keeps a secret journal, and decides he needs to change his life for the better. Once out of prison, he moves from Florida to Puerto Rico to work for his dad, but eventually turns to drinking and gambling.

He flashes back to his school days. He attended school in a former prison. He recalls meeting prisoners and thinking their stories about how they ended up being incarcerated were not important. After high school, Jack is accepted into the University of Florida, but decides not to go when he learns that, as a freshman living on campus, he would be denied a car. He admires Kerouac’s On the Road and dreams of having that freedom. When his friend Tim visits, he introduces Jack to marijuana. This leads Jack onto the path that puts him in prison. Tim convinces Jack to sell some marijuana, but ends up bailing on him and taking his money.

Part 2 begins on St. Croix, where Jack works with his father. He smokes more and more marijuana while the political situation on the island becomes more and more unstable. Jack and his father build crates for people to ship their belongings off of the island when they meet Rik, a drug dealer. Jack and his father do not mind that Rik is smuggling drugs in their crates—they just want to make enough money to leave the island. Meanwhile, Jack keeps writing and reading. Rik starts paying Jack in drugs instead of money, and offers him a job that will get him to New York—if Jack helps smuggle drugs there, he will get ten thousand dollars. He wants to use the money for college, so he agrees.

He sails with a character named Hamilton, who watches Jack carefully. Hamilton finds Jack’s identification documents and throws them overboard. On the way to New York, Jack begins to fear that he might get into trouble for smuggling drugs. He spends his days reading and writing, though he gets bored. After sailing through a storm, they arrive at Cape May where they try to reach Rik. He does not answer, so they keep on going toward New York, and the second part of the book comes to a close.

Part 3 opens with Jack learning from his father that the FBI is looking for him. His father hires a lawyer, Al Newman, for Jack. They meet and then go talk to Mr. Tepper, the prosecutor. Tepper has many photos of Jack, Hamilton, and Rik. Rik is also willing to testify against Jack. Tepper asks for drug dealers’ contacts on St. Croix but Jack does not have any to give him. As he awaits sentencing, Jack thinks about how he can get out of this situation, and considers fleeing to Canada.

After he has been imprisoned for some time, Jack appears before the parole board. He has a hard time avoiding drugs, but manages to because he would rather get out of jail than be high. However, the board does not see his good behavior—only that he was blamed for the drug smuggling, and they give him two more years in prison. One night, he realizes that he never finishes anything he starts writing because he never has guidance. He writes about prisoners trying to escape, and where they went wrong. Then, he writes about his own plan. Jack thinks he can sell medical equipment to buy a ticket to fly to Canada. But he tells his new caseworker, Mr. Casey, that he wants to go to college. Casey helps him reduce his jail time and apply to college. Jack is released from prison.

Jack is unable to take his prison journal with him when he leaves, because the prison owns it. He goes to school, gets his degree, and becomes a professional writer. He tries to find the book he turned into his journal, but is unsuccessful. The book is lost. However, this does not hamper his productivity as a writer.

The title Hole in My Life represents not only Jack’s time in prison, but also his time on drugs and the period of his life when he wanted to write but was unable to finish anything he started.