Set in small-town America, this novel centres on the lives and personalities of two characters: Francis Pinkham and Robert Cutler. Several third-person voices tell their stories over three generations.
Francis’s inauspicious beginnings set the tone and pattern for his life. He is the youngest of ten, his father had been desperate for a boy but had nine girls before Francis finally came along. Convinced with each pregnancy that the unborn baby would be a boy, his father had named them whilst still in utero – Jack, Larry and Ray turning into Jackie, Larrie and Rae when disappointment set in. By the time Francis was born, his parents had been too exhausted by child-rearing to care, having managed to produce nine loud, brash, butch tomboys who bully and despise the youngest member of their family.
Robert Cutler, Francis’s contemporary, appears to be headed for great things. A relentlessly cheerful, pleasant and intelligent boy, the town comes to revere him as a model citizen – and Robert is equally dedicated to Cedar Hole, endlessly attempting to improve the town and prove its worth to the uninterested