The Deitz family -- Mom, Dad, 4 year old girl and 3 year old son -- move to Houdin, a drab town in
the Transylvanian Alps. Dad, an accountant, has been given the top accounting job for the town's thriving business,
an agricultural firm that harvests a major supply of the world's fennel crops.
But all is not well in Houdin. There are no children, and people spend as little time as possible outdoors.
Mom ignores the warnings. Why should she keep her children inside where there
is such a lovely park? It has all the conveneniences, even an eco-friendly compositing lavatory that mechanically recycles
waste into fertilizer for the crops.
When an old hermit
frightens their little daughter, Mom and Dad use their influence to have him hauled away to a sorry fate, even though
there is no firm evidence against him. Sure they have ridded the town of its danger to children, Mom brings her children to
the park, confident that now they are safe.
Mom tends to her little boy, the daughter disappears. And like all the other children in town, no one knows
where she went.
The broken family carry their
grief back to America as a new accountant is hired, bringing with him his young family.
And as he is warned, and ignores the warnings, no one can explain to him why the fennel crops grow so
Or why the town's energetic composting
toilet, so efficient at producing rich fertilizer, is so unusually full.