The book begins with an exciting episode in which Rob helps a calf come into the world, gets covered with cow slop, and almost breaks his arm. This helps the reader get to know what Rob's life is like and introduces us to our plucky, tell-it-like-it-is narrator. But the real start of the story happens when Mr. Tanner gives Rob that little pink bundle of joy. From here, the boy-and-his-pig story takes over. Rob and Pinky explore the countryside, Rob and Pinky play summertime games, Rob and Pinky go to the fair. This is some warm, cozy, feel-good stuff. Nothing can go wrong now, right?
While we're swinging along just having a good time, the complication almost creeps up on us. Looks like Pinky may not be destined to be a mama. Uh-oh. We're not quite sure what this means in the big picture yet, but we're pretty sure it can't be good. Oh, yeah, and by the way—Papa may be dying. Heck of a sucker punch, eh?
As winter comes on and the Peck family's luck turns from bad to worse, an impending sense of doom starts to take over. Papa tries, but just can't seem to bag any game to feed the family, and Pinky's one-night stand with Samson doesn't go anywhere, leaving her a useless burden on the family's resources. Did we mention uh-oh? The crisis of the book comes when Rob and Papa, despite all their efforts, and despite their wishes, decide that they have no choice but to turn Pinky from burden to food source by butchering her and making her into pork cutlets. Wow, talk about buying the farm.
Following right on the heels of Pinky's untimely demise, Papa dies in his sleep during the night. Rob's growth into a man through his facing up to the necessity of Pinky's death is confirmed in his reaction to Papa's death. He steps right into his new place as head of the Peck family and unhesitatingly does everything that needs to be done to take care of Papa's burial arrangements. Bummer, but…way to go, Rob.
Rob's new status as man of the family is rewarded with the respect and support of his neighbors. As the book closes and he walks away from his father's grave, the reader's sadness is balanced out by confidence that Rob is ready for what's ahead. Cue the inspiring music, please.