Ray Bradbury’s “other” Halloween book, From the Dust Returned, is over some fifty years in the making, beginning as a spark from a single story in his early twenties that he would continue to add on to throughout his career. This spark of a first story, “Homecoming,” was originally published in Mademoiselle magazine and featured unique artwork (which is here reproduced on the cover of the book) by a then relatively unknown artist by the name of Charles Addams.
In the style of his Martian Chronicles, this book feels very much like a collection of stories that are linked together through the characters, as well as specific chapters that provide the cement, binding them all together. From the Dust Returned consists of a most unique haunted house where the dead that unite and meet there are of all the same family, with exotic and incredible names like Cecy, Uncle Einar, and A Thousand Times Great Grandmére. Cecy is a unique corpse of a woman who spends her times in the dust dunes in the attic, sending her soul and spirit out into the world to occupy and experience anything and everything, whether it be a drop of rainwater on a rock, a young lover’s heart, or a giant eagle flying across the sky. Uncle Einar is a special uncle with thin veiny wings that allow him to take flight like a giant bird and travel wherever he pleases. And A Thousand Times Great Grandmére, who has existed in her decrepit state for many thousands of years has stories and experiences to tell that make everything else seem short lived and mundane. And then there are many more brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces from all over the world who come to visit.
The main character, a young boy called Timothy, is also unique compared to the family for he is an ordinary human boy who is left as a babe in a basket on the doorstep of this doomed mansion, and is raised in this very strange family. But with his humanity, he has a different viewpoint, and his job is to record the stories and experiences of these most strange and unusual family members.
While From the Dust Returned seems to unravel a little sometimes, with some stories going on tangents that never quite return to the coherent plot, there are gems in this book that are unlike any other I have read. Along with The Halloween Tree, it is a perfect book to be read, and to read aloud, around and during Halloween.
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Originally written on October 23rd 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.