Stanley Yelnats, a boy who has bad luck due to a curse placed on his great- great-grandfather, is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp, for a crime he did not commit. Stanley and the other boys at the camp are forced to dig large holes in the dirt every day. Stanley eventually realizes that they are digging these holes because the Warden is searching for something. As Stanley continues to dig holes and meet the other boys at the camp, the narrator intertwines three separate stories to reveal why Stanley's family has a curse and what the Warden is looking for.
When he was a boy, Stanley's great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats, received a pig from Madame Zeroni, a gypsy, in exchange for a promise. Elya's promise was that after the pig grew strong he would carry Madame Zeroni, who only had one leg, up a mountain and sing her a song that she had taught him. After becoming disillusioned with the girl he thought he loved, however, Elya hops a boat to America, ...