The Parisian narrator Herman, his wife Rose and his (never named) young son have been spending their usual summer holiday near a village where they stay every year, although this year they have stayed beyond 31 August and the glorious weather – as it always does, but they don't know this – suddenly changes to cold and rain from 1 September. Rose and their son have gone on a short trip to a nearby farm to buy some eggs, although after three hours without returning Herman begins to get concerned and goes to look for them.
What follows is Herman's quest for his wife and child, from the farmhouse where he receives no joy, to the police station where they are of no help, and so on. He is virtually forced to stay the night – which becomes a number of nights – in one of the two village hotels, but still he can't find his wife and child, although his quest for them lessens as he becomes fascinated by the landlady's daughter Charlotte.
And then he learns – as the reader has obviously long realised – that he'll never see his family again. At least, not in the form that they previosuly existed in, but as spirits who have been, as it were, swallowed up in this village which is a panopticon, where business is almost a religion, and the welfare of children, for instance, is ignored.
And then Herman leaves the village, supposedly for a few hours, to go to the larger L., where Gilbert wants him to show him off (as Herman is from Paris) to Lemaître and play a game of tennis. But Herman drifts away and goes to a hotel with Métilde, a girl from the village who's looking for him, but his mother- and father-in-law are at the hotel, wanting to know where their daughter and grandson are and eager to reach the village to meet them.
But the only way is by taxi, although no driver seems to want to go there because of the terrible rain, and Herman feels that he's liquifying increasingly. When they do find a driver, who has no nose, the car breaks down on the way, and that's as far as the story goes.
Links to my other Marie NDiaye posts:
Marie NDiaye: La Sorcière
Marie NDiaye: Rosie Carpe
Marie NDiaye: Autoportrait en vert
Marie NDiaye: Ladivine
Marie NDiaye: Trois femmes puissantes
Marie NDiaye: La Femme changée en bûche
Marie NDiaye: Mon cœur à l'étroit
Marie NDiaye: Papa doit manger
Marie NDiaye: En famille
Marie NDiaye: Les Serpents
Marie NDiaye: Les Grandes Personnes