Holding Out

Holding Out

by Anne O. Faulk


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In the smartest, funniest, and sharpest novel since Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, the women of America are mad as hell—and they're not going to DO IT anymore!

What would happen if a bold, successful female executive called upon the nation's women to withhold sex until a highly placed spousal abuser was brought to justice? It would rock the country—and her life—that's what!

Updating the story of Lysistrata—who persuaded the women of Athens to withhold sex from their husbands to end a war—Anne O. Faulk has written a brilliant and Rabelaisian cautionary tale. Holding Out is a love story for the 1990s that goes to the very heart of male-female relations.

Lauren Fontaine is a thirty-six-year-old financial wizard and single mother with a wicked wit and a tenacious sense of right and wrong. Like many other women, she is outraged when the wife of the chief justice of the Supreme Court commits suicide after years of spousal abuse—and the "good old boys" in Congress refuse to impeach the offender. Unlike most of them, she does something about it.

When Lauren suggests that every woman in America refuse to have sex until the judge is removed from the court, her proposed sex strike sweeps the nation, and she soon finds herself pitted against almost every man in the country—and unwittingly placed at the center of the most controversial event in the history of the women's movement.

Through it all, Lauren must come to terms with her own burgeoning (and perforce sexless) relationship with a handsome, world-famous writer, as well as her changing assumptions about women. She must deal with a financial scandal in her own office, the problems of her son as his mother becomes a national heroine, and the consequences, ranging from funny to tragic, for the women around her of her sex strike—all without losing her sense of humor.

Combining a sexy, modern heroine with an original, imaginative, and poignant story, Holding Out is a delicious page-turner that marks the debut of a sophisticated and major new talent.

Holding Out is so fresh, so funny, and so controversial that it's not only sure to cause a major stir but to prompt readers to wonder: Anne Faulk, Where have you been all our lives?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781982131173
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 02/23/2019
Pages: 528
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.70(d)

Read an Excerpt


I think I should start this off by saying that I am the last person on earth you would expect to end up a political prisoner. Except maybe Burl Ives, and I think he might be dead. I mean I am hardly the type. I'm much more likely to be compared to Madonna than Mandela. At least I was before all this happened.

I've been in a lot of places and fantasized about being in a lot of others, but I certainly never dreamed I'd end up in the Hardwick Women's Correctional Facility. Granted, I have my own trailer, which we call "Tara," and I'm allowed "special privileges," but let no one believe that these gifts flow from the benevolence of the great state of Georgia. They are both for the benefit and convenience of the national news media and a political concession to the thousands of people who come here regularly and chant my name at the gates.

They say that some people are born great, some people achieve greatness and some people have greatness thrust upon them. I am clearly in the third category, and at this point I'd like to thrust it right back.

I certainly wasn't born great. I grew up the third and invisible child of five, the "brain" in a family that valued only athletic achievement. For all the hoopla about my looks, I wasn't considered the beauty in my family. That honor went first to my older sister Gigi, who was even briefly a runway model, then to my baby sister Bobbie, who waddled through junior high and metamorphosed in her sophomore year into a teen queen.

I was a bored and uninspired student at Miss Porter's until I was asked to leave on May 2nd, in my junior year. My crime was substituting Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" for the traditional May Day processional on the school's loudspeaker. The audience loved it, but the May Queen, whose father was on the board of trustees, was not amused. So, I finished my secondary school career at Girls Preparatory School. The yearbook at GPS doesn't list me in the Senior Honors section, although I was the president of the SSDS (the Secret Senior Drinking Society) as well as the holder of the record for the most classes skipped in a year (205).

I went to the University of Virginia, where I became engaged my freshman year to a boy whose family I had fallen in love with. We married my sophomore year, and I had Razz my senior year. The marriage was low-grade misery, but when I became a mother, I vowed that Razz would have a happy home with his original mommy and daddy. Then, four years later, when most of my friends were marrying for the first time, I just gave up and got a divorce.

As for achieving greatness, I can say that I've aspired to a lot of things, but I don't know that greatness would have even made the short list.

I've aspired to be a wonderful mother, something that surely doesn't fit my image, but anyone who knows me at all knows it has been my number one priority since that afternoon sixteen years ago when John Ransom Fontaine was delivered, absolutely livid, at University Hospital in Augusta, Georgia.

I have aspired to be a loyal friend, a fearsome enemy and an accomplished lover, and I think that anyone who has known me in any one or more of the aforementioned capacities would likely tell you that I've been successful. I have also aspired to things where I've been an abject failure. I aspired to be a good and dutiful wife and was unable to pull it off. I aspired to be a great athlete and never overtook mediocrity. I also aspired to never cause my family and friends pain. The last three months have been a veritable monument to that failure.

If I aspired to anything resembling greatness, it's that I always wanted to live a giant life, full of passion and adventure, love and achievement, a life unsullied by fear or regrets for what I almost did or almost was. I certainly did not aspire to the kind of "greatness" that some in the movement now ascribe to me.

Three months ago no one knew who I was, now I'm one of the most famous people in America. I think I must have appeared on the cover of every magazine in the country with the exception of Popular Mechanics and Opera News. My sister Gigi is keeping a scrapbook, and the damn thing must weigh twenty pounds. On Sundays she brings it, with all the new things she's collected, and reads the articles to me as we marvel at the sheer creativity of the press. I mean, where do these people get this stuff?

Gigi's favorite, back toward the very beginning, was the cover of New York magazine. The photo must have been taken at the Met premiere of Turandot, and I'm wearing a low-cut dress and laughing. The caption reads "This woman may have caused the end of civilization as we know it ... and she thinks it's funny."

Maybe I'm just touchy but I thought that seemed a tad hysterical.

Razz's favorite is the quote, "This century has seen some real trouble-makers--Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein--but they must be considered rank amateurs compared to Lauren Fontaine." And this wasn't from some religious monthly, this was from the Wall Street Journal, for God's sake! And it wasn't even on the editorial page--this was supposedly an unbiased "journalistic" story on the movement.

This "thing," as my mother would say, has made people forget themselves. My mother, however, has not forgotten herself. She doesn't visit, though she calls twice a week. She's gone from being thrilled at my fame to mortified that, as she puts it, I've "ended up in jail." I have tried on several occasions to explain to her the difference between being a political prisoner and a criminal, but it makes no difference--she's as embarrassed in front of her bridge friends as if I'd been convicted of knocking over 7-Elevens.

Gigi comes every day. It's an hour commute each way, and she's only missed twice, and knowing that she's coming is one of the things that keeps me sane. It's not that I don't have plenty of visitors, but Gigi's the one who can make me laugh. She has a wonderful sense of the absurd, and some days she can even make me think of this as an unexpected adventure instead of a hideous nightmare.

Razz is taking this pretty well, I think. "As well as can be expected" is the phrase he uses, because he knows it just slays me. I talk to him every day for as long as he feels like talking. Sometimes that's two hours and sometimes two minutes. When I came here, I hired an old friend of mine to be his bodyguard. Razz acts as if this is a horrible imposition but is secretly thrilled to be the first kid on his block to have one.

I think this has been harder on Razz than anybody. After all, he's the age where he doesn't want any attention called to himself, where a normal parent is a terrible burden, much less one who's regularly on the nightly news.

It is, I have to say, by far the hardest part for me--to be separated from him and to know that he's in pain is more horrible than I can describe. Late at night it sneaks up on me and sits in this room like a fog of sadness. Missing him and knowing that he's suffering and not being able to comfort him is a wound as hot and deep as a dog bite. We talk about the difficulties together, but out of kindness neither of us elaborates, and every night I pray that we'll both be OK.

Prison has very little to recommend it. It's a dreadful experience, especially if, like me, you don't enjoy the company of criminals. Not that this is my first experience with them, since I spent several years working on Wall Street. It's just that the ones here can't even talk about why Negril is more fun than St. Barts, or why Rigoletto is a better opera than La Traviata.

Similarly, I am at a loss to debate why it is more effective to "cut" a girl who has moved in on your pimp than just to get her into a "lock" and break off her teeth on the curb. Funny, but this sort of lively discussion surpasses my realm of experience.

What's worse than the people and the lack of freedom and the horrors of prison, most of which I've been mercifully spared, is the stupefying sameness of every day. I've always wallowed happily in the chaos of my life--a Rubik's Cube of people and activities. But prison is the tedium of repeated movements, like walking endlessly around in a circle. I have an almost constant sense of deja vu.

In prison the most basic pleasures are surrendered, even things like jogging. I've jogged for years, but running in a prison yard is simply not a prudent thing to do. All of the guards are male, the meanest kind of no-neck rednecks, and they carry large automatic weapons. Watching them watch me makes me feel like a ten-point buck on opening day of hunting season.

So now exercise consists of working out with old Jane Fonda tapes on the VCR or dancing nonstop through the entire tape of Little Richard Live at the O.K. Club. This, I might add, is harder than you'd think.

The mornings are taken up talking on the phone, either with interviews or with the movement leaders. There is enormous tension in the ranks, and I spend a part of every day trying to hold things together. When I started this you could never have convinced me that it would last for more than a couple of weeks max. Anyway, it gets harder and harder to control, but I guess that's the natural progression for this sort of thing.

The afternoons are taken up with visitors, reporters, or friends. My sweetheart comes frequently, and we are even offered conjugal privileges. "Fat chance," is my only comment. I'm quite sure that Tara is bugged, and even if it weren't--well, it would hardly be kosher. I must admit though that I think about it almost constantly.

I also entertain my fair share of visiting dignitaries, politicians, etc. I try very hard to be uniformly passionate, articulate and charming, but sometimes it's like dancing nonstop through the entire Little Richard tape--harder than you'd think.

I never make appointments after 2:30, so by the time Gigi gets here I'm finished with my guests. I've even been known to escort startled politicians to the door at the stroke of 4:00. I am happy to be hospitable; I guess that's the Southerner in me. But my time with Gigi is a treasure I guard jealously, like a woman with a married lover.

She arrives at 4:00 and we make drinks and I tell her about my day and she tells me about the outside world. We give each other advice, we strategize and sometimes we even laugh. Gigi and I have two things that keep us incredibly close: the billion reference points that allow us to communicate in verbal shorthand, and an identical sense of humor. We can say more to each other with three words than other people can express in twenty minutes, and we can drive each other into hysterics over something that outsiders might find only marginally amusing.

Every afternoon we cook together, trying out recipes, just the way we did as teenagers. Then, visiting hours over, I eat alone and she drives home to make dinner for her new husband, the fabulous Tom Patterson.

I used to play basketball in the evening with the other women, until it became a problem. So many of the inmates think of me as a hero. They want to touch my hand and encourage me and tell me their stories, and I've always tried to listen and let them know that I'd heard them, and I'd hug them when they cried, because I know everybody needs that. But it became fairly evident that I had become the "object of affection" for several of these women, and I can't decide which made me more uncomfortable, the ones who'd write me love letters and make me presents, or the ones who'd call out their romantic and sexual intentions like dockworkers. I mean, regardless of what I started or how I'm viewed by the male population of the world, I have always been a lover of men.

Exclusively, totally, purely, a girl who likes boys.


On Saturday, March 7th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Anne O. Faulk to discuss HOLDING OUT.

Moderator: Hello, Ms. Faulk. We are pleased you could join us this evening to discuss HOLDING OUT. Are you ready to begin?

Anne O Faulk: I'm ready to begin.

Pat from Madison, WI: For those of us who haven't read HOLDING OUT yet, could you give us a thumbnail sketch? Thanks. I look forward to reading your book.

Anne O Faulk: HOLDING OUT is the story of one woman who convinces all of the women in America to go on a sex strike to make sure that a highly placed spousal abuser does not escape justice. It's about what happens to her and her family when she steps up to bat to make sure justice is done.

Felicia Satler from La Jolla: Did something inspire the writing of HOLDING OUT? It seems so timely now, especially with all that's going on in the government and the military with Clintongate and Sergeant McKinney. How did you come up with the idea for HOLDING OUT?

Anne O Faulk: I wanted to write a story about courage and what it takes for people to assume leadership roles. The thing that inspired the writing of HOLDING OUT was Martin Luther King's leadership during the civil rights movement. The story is 2,500 years old and it's as timely today as it was during Aristophanes' day.

Guy from Guysville: So did Aristophanes' LYSISTRATA inspire HOLDING OUT, or did you think about the play after you had the idea for the book? Thank you for taking my question.

Anne O Faulk: Once I had the idea of somebody taking on the powerful, I thought that Aristophanes' idea of the sex strike would be a fun and unusual premise.

Germaine from New York: Hello, Ms. Faulk. What do you think the possibilities are of a sex strike actually happening? In this country? Didn't I hear of a sex strike happening in Columbia? What was the outcome of that?

Anne O Faulk: I don't know the outcome of that, but you are right, there was a sex strike called in Columbia. One thing's for sure, in this day and age, anything can happen. If there was an outrage against women egregious enough and a leader trusted by women called for it, who's to say?

Simi from Bellingham, WA: What sort of reaction have men had to your book? Has your son read it?

Anne O Faulk: What a great question. I finally convinced my son to read it, and his exact reaction was, "Momma, it's not too bad." The thing that surprised me in the writing of this book was that my men friends seemed to enjoy this story even more than my women friends.

Erin from Oakland, CA: In HOLDING OUT, Lauren Fontaine has to deal with the media spotlight, which at times can be unflattering. In light of what's going on today with Monica Lewinsky, what do you think of the media's rabid chase of celebrities?

Anne O Faulk: I think it's very unfortunate, and certainly in the case of Princess Diana, tragic. One of the issues that I deal with in the book is that now the media is used to destroy people in public life. Instead of debating issues with someone, it's easier to ruin them in the press.

Lara from Rockville, MD: Will you be touring for HOLDING OUT? Will you be coming to the Beltway anytime soon?

Anne O Faulk: I'm supposed to begin my tour in the South on the 20th of March, beginning in Atlanta and ending in Nashville. I hope I get the chance to come to the Beltway, but nothing is in stone after the first of April.

Margaret from San Antonio, TX: Would you consider yourself a feminist? What do you think defines a feminist?

Anne O Faulk: If the definition of a feminist is someone who believes that women should enjoy equal opportunities, equal rights, and equal pay, than I am absolutely a feminist.

Carol from Bradenton, FL: I'd like to find out how you got published. How long did it take you to write HOLDING OUT? Congratulations on publishing your first novel.

Anne O Faulk: It took me four years to write it. I got a lot of rejections and I just kept trying. Once I found an agent, my agent held an auction and we got a publisher in about two weeks. I started looking for an agent when I had about two chapters written, and I finally found one a year after I finished the book. Keep at it.

Heather from Newark, NJ: Hello, Ms. Faulk. I loved HOLDING OUT. It was a blast. Who are your literary inspirations? Thanks.

Anne O Faulk: Just off the top of my head I would say Pat Conroy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Barbara Raskin, Susan Isaacs, Jane Smiley, Ayn Rand -- just to mention a few. I could go on for eight pages.

Jared from Brooklyn: Spousal abuse seems to be a recent theme in women's literature. When you come right down to it, the women in HOLDING OUT take issue with a Supreme Court justice who beat his wife to death. Have you read Anna Quindlen's BLACK AND BLUE? Do you think that this country pays enough attention to this issue?

Anne O Faulk: No, I haven't read BLACK AND BLUE yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I think spousal abuse is an extremely important issue and one that's really just come to the forefront of the American debate. It wasn't until the O. J. Simpson case that the issue got any attention, and it's an issue as old as time.

Terry from Montana: Do you think we will ever see a woman as President? It's off the subject of the book, but I'm just curious.

Anne O Faulk: It's an idea I'm kicking around for a book. And I sure hope we see it.

Michelle Garrison from Narberth, PA: Do you think using sex as a weapon (sorry Pat Benatar) is a smart move for feminists? Don't you think it reduces everything to a base and unsophisticated level?

Anne O Faulk: Perhaps in real life. But sex is a very powerful weapon as well as a powerful tool, and I thought it was a subject worth writing about and a subject that I could have some fun with. There were a number of issues, such as the battle between the sexes, where I wanted to throw in my two cents, but do it in such a way as to amuse and entertain the reader.

Sally Hodges from Thomasville, GA: Congratulations, Anne! I thoroughly enjoyed HOLDING OUT and am really proud of all your accomplishments, as are all your old hometown buddies. I still miss your smiling face and good humor, but will look forward to being with you via your next book. My question is personal, too, but I have to ask on behalf of other members of the Thomasville Cultural Writers' Club: How did you go about getting your book published?

Anne O Faulk: Thanks so much for signing on. What a delightful surprise. I've touched on that earlier. The advice I would have for anybody who wants to publish a book is to be willing to take suggestions. I must have written 12 versions of HOLDING OUT until I got it to the point where it was polished enough to be published. It's a long process, but one that's certainly worth it. I took suggestions from my friends who read the manuscript, from anybody in the publishing field who I could get to take a look at it. I read every book about the publishing industry and how to write and anything else I could find.

Thomas Gara from Great Meadows, NJ: Usually if you have a provocative and entertaining story, a movie deal follows. Will there ever be a movie version of HOLDING OUT? Do you know any details -- who will star, etc.? If not, who would you like to see star in the movie version?

Anne O Faulk: HBO bought the rights to HOLDING OUT about two weeks after Simon & Schuster did. We're hoping to see the movie by the end of the year. My friends have been giving me suggestions for casting ever since I started writing the book. And of all of the characters, I only wrote one of them with an actor in mind, and that was the character of Jake Ward, who to me has to be played by Tommy Lee Jones.

Kenji Farinelli from Colorado Springs: Thanks for letting all of us laugh at ourselves. I hear the terms "women's rights" and "women's issues" a lot in certain circles. Is it necessary to separate certain issues from the constant struggle to be more fully human to each other? In that separate recognition, do we alienate those people in most need of being won over?

Anne O Faulk: That's a question that Jake asks Lauren in the middle of the sex strike. He asks, "Does everything have to end up as an us versus them?" But I think there are issues particular to women, not the least of which is, why are we so hard on and judgmental about each other?

Chandra from Buffalo, NY: Do you think there are enough female role models? Who are your role models?

Anne O Faulk: Absolutely. The women that I most admire, or at least the ones who come to mind first, are the pioneers: Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Rosa Parks, Muriel Siebert, who was the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, Tina Turner, Oprah Winfrey, and Jackie O. and Princess Diana for the types of mothers that they were.

Georgia from Lexington, KY: How similar are you to your main character, Lauren Fontaine? A single mother and financial wizard would seem to fit your profile.

Anne O Faulk: Let's just say Lauren Fontaine and I share the same perspective, many of the same experiences and emotions, but she's younger and much better looking than I am.

Amie from Ohio: Can you tell us what your second novel is about?

Anne O Faulk: I'm working on a sequel that takes place about three years after HOLDING OUT ends and is about the further adventures of Lauren Fontaine and her pals. And in the sequel, life is even more complicated.

Mindy from Long Island: What do you think about the current state of the women's movement? Do you think that it would just take a charismatic leader to unify women?

Anne O Faulk: Well, I'd say the women's movement is clearly in disarray. I think we've got a perfect example of a charismatic female leader currently in that the most powerful woman in America isn't Hillary Clinton, it's Oprah Winfrey.

Kelly from Chicago: Lauren seems to feel as most women do: They believe in women's rights but prefer to participate at a distance. How involved are you in this movement? What do you think needs to be done to motivate women to take an active role?

Anne O Faulk: I once participated in a march on Washington, which is where a couple of the scenes in the book come from. I hope that tossing out the issues with hopefully some insight and a little humor is a contribution. Something that's perceived as a threat to the rights that women enjoy or their ability to take care of the people they love or an outrage, like the one I've used as a catalyst in the book, all could be events that would incite American women to get involved again.

Tim from Quebec, Canada: Were there any significant lessons learned during the process of writing HOLDING OUT that you think will be of value to you in your future projects?

Anne O Faulk: As far as I'm concerned, there were two great lessons in writing HOLDING OUT. One was tenacity and the other was faith. There was a point in the fifth year of the experience where everyone who cared about me tried to get me to give up. And I told them that this was going to be about the power of faith. I wasn't giving up. And the last year has been a testament to the rewards of that.

Midge from Atlanta, GA: While you were working at Merrill Lynch, did you experience any sort of sexual discrimination?

Anne O Faulk: When I was starting out in the brokerage business, I experienced a lot of sexual harassment. In the stock market, as long as you make your clients money, nobody cares what gender you are. I didn't face sexual discrimination until I started my own company and tried to raise capital.

Sam from Orlando: Was this at all inspired by Clarence Thomas? I'd also like to know what you think about Clinton's alleged dalliances.

Anne O Faulk: The catalyst for HOLDING OUT was inspired by two things. One was the Clarence Thomas hearings and the other was the original O. J. Simpson verdict. As far as Clinton's dalliances, I think there are two separate issues going on. On the one hand is the Gennifer Flowers/Monica Lewinsky consensual partners, that, like a lot of people, I think is strictly his private business. On the other hand, the Paula Jones/Kathleen Willey claims of unwanted crude sexual overtures is very troubling. And if those two cases prove to be true and the President is found to be a sexual predator, then all bets are off as far as this being none of the business of the American people. So I think it's two separate things.

Mary from Long Island: Do you feel that it's women that keep other women down? Or do you feel it's men?

Anne O Faulk: Women keep other women down. The question was asked of me on a radio talk show earlier in the week: What would cause American women to come together and stand together? And one women called in and said, "Nothing. There is nothing American women dislike as much as they dislike each other." And my reaction to that was "Bingo!"

Gavin from Fresno: May I ask what else is on your list of "things to do before you die"?

Anne O Faulk: I want to write a musical. I want to draw the cover of The New Yorker. I want to race in the Paris to Dakar road race. I want to go to trapeze school and fall in love at least once more. Those are just a few things on my list.

Moderator: Thank you for taking the time to field all of our questions, Ms. Faulk. Congratulations on the success of HOLDING OUT. Any final words from our online audience?

Anne O Faulk: Thank you so much for taking the time to sign on. I've had a wonderful time, and I hope you all enjoy the book.

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