From the Dust Returned

From the Dust Returned

by Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury, America's most beloved storyteller, has spent a lifetime carrying readers to exhilarating and dangerous places, from dark street comers in unfamiliar cities and towns to the edge of the universe. Now, in an extraordinary flight of the imagination a half-century in the making, he takes us to a most wondrous destination: into the heart of an Eternal Family.

They have lived for centuries in a house of legend and mystery in upper Illinois — and they are not like other midwesterners. Rarely encountered in daylight hours, their children are curious and wild; their old ones have survived since before the Sphinx first sank its paws deep in Egyptian sands. And some sleep in beds with lids.

Now the house is being readied in anticipation of the gala homecoming that will gather together the farflung branches of this odd and remarkable family. In the past-midnight stillness can be detected the soft fluttering of Uncle Einars wings. From her realm of sleep, Cecy, the fairest and most special daughter, can feel the approach of many a welcome being — shapeshifter, telepath, somnambulist, vampire — as she flies high in the consciousness of bird and bat.

But in the midst of eager anticipation, a sense of doom pervades. For the world is changing. And death, no stranger, will always shadow this most singular family: Father, arisen from the Earth; Mother, who never sleeps but dreams; A Thousand Times Great Grandmére; Grandfather, who keeps the wildness of youth between his ears.

And the boy who, more than anyone, carries the burden of time on his shoulders: Timothy, the sad and different foundling son who must share it all, remember, and tell...and who, alone out of all of them, must one day age and wither and die.

By turns lyrical, wistful, poignant, and chilling, From the Dust Returned is the long-awaited new novel by the peerless Ray Bradbury — a book that will surely be numbered among his most enduring masterworks.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780380789610
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/03/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 320,748
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

In a career spanning more than seventy years, Ray Bradbury, who died on June 5, 2011 at the age of 91, inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create. A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and close to fifty books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time. His groundbreaking works include Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. He wrote the screen play for John Huston's classic film adaptation of Moby Dick, and was nominated for an Academy Award. He adapted sixty-five of his stories for television's The Ray Bradbury Theater, and won an Emmy for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree. He was the recipient of the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, among many honors.

Throughout his life, Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. At the end of his performance Electrico reached out to the twelve-year-old Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded, "Live forever!" Bradbury later said, "I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped."


Los Angeles, California

Date of Birth:

August 22, 1920

Place of Birth:

Waukegan, Illinois


Attended schools in Waukegan, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Town and the Place

At first, A Thousand Times Great Grandmère said, there was only a place on the long plain of grass and a hill on which was nothing at all but more grass and a tree that was as crooked as a fork of black lightning on which nothing grew until the town came and the House arrived.

We all know how a town can gather need by need until suddenly its heart starts up and circulates the people to their destinations. But how, you ask, does a house arrive?

The fact is that the tree was there and a lumberman passing to the Far West leaned against it, and guessed it to be before Jesus sawed wood and shaved planks in his father's yard or Pontius Pilate washed his palms. The tree, some said, beckoned the House out of tumults of weather and excursions of Time. Once the House was there, with its cellar roots deep in Chinese tombyards, it was of such a magnificence, echoing facades last seen in London, that wagons, intending to cross the river, hesitated with their families gazing up and decided if this empty place was good enough for a papal palace, a royal monument, or a queen's abode, there hardly seemed a reason to leave. So the wagons stopped, the horses were watered, and when the families looked, they found their shoes as well as their souls had sprouted roots. So stunned were they by the House up there by the lightning-shaped tree, that they feared if they left the House would follow in their dreams and spoil all the waiting places ahead.

So the House arrived first and its arrival was the stuff offurther legends, myths, or drunken nonsense.

It seems there was a wind that rose over the plains bringing with it a gentle rain that turned into a storm that funneled a hurricane of great strength. Between midnight and dawn, this portmanteau-storm lifted any moveable object between the fort towns of Indiana and Ohio, stripped the forests in upper Illinois, and arrived over the as-yet-unborn site, settled, and with the level hand of an unseen god deposited, shakeboard by shakeboard and shingle by shingle, an arousal of timber that shaped itself long before sunrise as something dreamed of by Rameses but finished by Napoleon fled from dreaming Egypt.

There were enough beams within to roof St. Peter's and enough windows to sun-blind a bird migration. There was a porch skirted all around with enough space to rock a celebration of relatives and boarders. Inside the windows loomed a cluster, a hive, a maze of rooms, sufficient to a roster, a squad, a battalion of as yet unborn legions, but haunted by the promise of their coming.

The House, then, was finished and capped before the stars dissolved into light and it stood alone on its promontory for many years, somehow failing to summon its future children. There must be a mouse in every warren, a cricket on every hearth, smoke in the multitudinous chimneys, and creatures, almost human, icing every bed. Then: mad dogs in yards, live gargoyles on roofs. All waited for some immense thunderclap of the long departed storm to shout: Begin!

And, finally, many long years later, it did.

From the Dust Returned. Copyright © by Ray Bradbury. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Reading Group Guide

One of Ray Bradbury's most precious childhood memories is of Halloweens spent at his grandparents' home with his beloved Aunt Neva, only ten years older than he. It was she who instilled in him his lifelong love of this most magical of holidays. Many of the characters from that long ago time have been given a life - and after-life - of their own, in Bradbury's eagerly anticipated new book From the Dust Returned.

The story is set in the family home in an area of Illinois that Bradbury refers to as the "October Country." Bradbury's descriptions of the house - with its multitude of rooms and ninety-nine or one hundred chimneys - conjure an image of the ultimate haunted mansion.

The main residents are Father, who must sleep during daylight hours; Mother, who doesn't sleep at all; A Thousand Times Great Grandmère, whose "life" spans more than four thousand years back to ancient Egypt; daughter Cecy, who sleeps day and night in order to dream-travel her way into all manner of living beings; and an adopted son, Timothy, who is clearly not like the others. The family anticipates a "Homecoming," the visitation of dozens of aunts, uncles and cousins in their various forms. There's Uncle Einar, larger than life with his huge green wings; the four cousins, all in love with and in need of Cecy; John the Unjust, who proves to be the family's undoing; and a host of other unforgettable characters.

The family must decide who they are, why they exist, and what they represent. Ultimately, they heed Great Grandmère's prophetic warnings, and disperse, scattering to the winds in order to survive before they are set upon by a mob of fearful townspeople.

Richly allegorical, From the Dust Returned explores family relationships and universal, time-tested themes of love, belonging, sense of place, and the meaning of life and death.

Topics for Discussion
  • With a family "history" that spans more than 4,000 years, the passage of time has a far different meaning to Elliott family members than it might have for us. How much time might have passed from the beginning of the story, when Cecy goes off in search of love, to Tom's return at the end? What do you think Bradbury is saying about our relationship to time and space?

  • Cecy declares, "If I can't be in love … because I'm odd, then I'll be in love through someone else." [p.22] Discuss this line of thinking and what the author might be saying about vicarious experience in contemporary society.

  • Her parents warn that Cecy might be "diminished" should she marry "a mere earth-bound creature," yet she appears to be ready to do so. [p. 32] If you had Cecy's ability to experience the world through others' eyes, would you consider it a gift or a liability? Explain.

  • Upon discovering the abandoned baby, Father insists, "He is not like us." Mother replies, "No, but still." Make an argument for both sides: Should the Family keep the baby or not? Had the Dark Lady not intervened, who do you think would have prevailed? Why?

  • Cecy "visits" a lonely farmer's wife by a salt sea, near the mud pots [p. 60] and tells Timothy that she intends to stay "until I've listened and looked and felt enough to change her life." Yet, as she departs, now in the form of a bird, she sees the woman sinking in a pool of mud - indeed a life-changing event. Under what circumstances can death be an acceptable alternative to life? Was this scene one such circumstance?

  • Discuss the story of the ghastly passenger on the Orient Express. Do you agree with his characterization of Americans as doubters, the French as cynics, and the English as the only believers? [pp. 95-96] Why would he have felt equally assaulted by atheists as well as true believers? "Poisonous talk and delirious chatter" cause the passenger to wilt. How does modern technology contribute to our own deterioration?

  • Nostrum Paracelsius Crook insists that the Family define themselves for the first time [p. 111], yet their process is interrupted by the ghastly passenger seeking refuge, who says, "Ask not for whom the funeral bell tolls . . .." Discuss the Family's decision in the context of meeting individual personal needs versus an obligation to assist others.

  • Father provides Timothy a history of "the rising tide of disbelief," saying, "So Christians and Muslims confront a world torn by many wars to finalize yet a larger." He then poses the question, "Does the unholy or holy win?" [p. 117] Discuss your reaction to Father's explanation, especially in light of recent world events. Knowing that some of the stories in this book were originally written more than fifty years ago, when do you suppose that Bradbury wrote this particular passage?

  • In Chapter 15, Uncle Einar resigns himself to marriage, once he can no longer travel in the manner to which he has become accustomed. He changes his diet and sleeping habits; his wife, in turn, makes him more comfortable. Do you believe that the secret to a successful marriage is this kind of give-and-take? Should spouses change to meet the needs of each other?

  • From Angelina Marguerite, Timothy learns the lesson, "Make haste to live." [Chapter 18] If you found yourself growing ever younger, as did Angelina, would you be as likely to "make haste to live" as you might if the reverse were true, and you were rapidly aging? Instead of "ashes to ashes, dust to dust," could you embrace a philosophy of "angels and flowers?"

  • Great Grandmère has been both ignored and forgotten by "a Family eager for survival and forgetful of unremembered deaths' leftovers." [p. 174] Why is a family's history important? What can we do to preserve and record ours?

  • Ray Bradbury once said of his stories that they are warnings, not predictions. "If they were predictions I wouldn't do them, because then I'd be part of a doom-ridden psychology. Every time I name the problem, I try to give the solution." Spend some time talking about the problems Bradbury has identified in From the Dust Returned, and the solutions he presents as well.

    About the Author: Ray Bradbury first wrote about the Elliott family more than fifty years ago in "Homecoming," a short story that appeared in the October 1946 issue of Mademoiselle magazine. The story was illustrated by Charles Addams, creator of "The Addams Family," and Addams and Bradbury hoped to one day collaborate on an Elliott family book. Though his stories are closer to fantasy than science fiction - and closer to reality than fantasy - Bradbury is regarded as a giant of science fiction today. Among his many books are The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The October Country, and Fahrenheit 451. He is the winner of numerous awards for his books and screenplays, and was Idea Consultant for the United States Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair. He has also worked as a consultant on city engineering and rapid transit, and helped design several malls in California, where he currently resides. In November 2000, Bradbury was awarded the National Book Foundation's 2000 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives with his wife, Marguerite, in Los Angeles.

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    From the Dust Returned 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Ray Bradbury's From the Dust Returned will make you remember why you fell in love with Halloween as a child. Just a gorgeous read.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I read in a review that this book will eventually find its way into the fall season pretty much the same way Dickens¿s ¿A Christmas Carol¿ has found it¿s way to the holiday season. I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. What a beautiful fall book. The characters are awesome and Bradbury¿s use of imagery is amazing. Picture a warm yet windy fall evening with the perfect amount of fall leaves floating around your feet and you have the picture that IS this book. There are a lot of different stories woven into ¿From the Dust Returned¿, but they all work well together and tie up perfectly at the end. A great book! This book would even be great to read through and choose passages for kids on Halloween night. I really enjoyed this book!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Ray Bradbury's masterpiece, From the Dust Returned, is a strange tale of an unusual family that all live in a house that was said to be made from debris from a hurricane.You could say these family members had a bit of a dark side and you would be correct because they are all monsters. Each individual character had that same common characteristic but each one was different from the next and completely different from the rest. That same diversity showed in the whole story not just in the characters traits but in the plot. This book is definitely targeted for people with large vocabularies. It was a great book and I would suggest it to most anyone. I always loved ray Bradbury's books and this one was definitely a great addition to his works. Although it was hard to understand in the beginning, it became clearer what mister Bradbury was trying to get across later in the book. Almost all the aspects of the book were more than satisfactory. I especially loved his vivid language. His description of Timothy's flight with uncle Einar was so exact I could see it happening turn by turn in my head. No other author of this genre could compare to ray's work of art, not even himself. This is his best book yet I can't wait for the next one. This book was a colorful entertaining descriptive story that I won't soon forget. I think anyone that enjoys reading should try this book. I am sure that you would enjoy it, I sure know that I have. No other author will satisfy you after you read this don't miss out on his most epic novel yet.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book truely incompases the feeling of fall and the taste of October. It personifies the characteristics of every story ever written about ghouls, vampires, witches, or any other creature that makes fear seize you in the dark. Its beauty is in its telling but the soul lies inside the mind altering story of the Elliot Family.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Wonderfully vintage Bradbury! Tight dialogue and excellent plotting, plus whimsical memories of a childhood lost in time. Superb!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I recently read this book for a book report and I loved it! Ray Bradbury is a great author and I love his books. At points i got confused, but this is an excellent story. This is the second book I 've read (the first was Farhenheit 451) by Ray Bradbury and it's wonderful. I definetly recommend this book. The book is wierd, funny, and sad. The characters are lovable and made me want to read even further into the book. r.b.l
    kpolhuis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I love Ray Bradbury's language. In fact, I would need to be able to write like him to describe how I feel whenever I read one of his stories. He is the king of short stories!
    israfel13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I dark nursery rhyme of the highest caliber.
    paganpaul on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    From the Dust Returned is a most fascinating book. Have you ever considered life from the side of spectres, vampires, ghouls and ghosts? Have you an idea how life and death look for the ones that don¿t die?Ray Bradbury created a masterpiece with this book, filled with dark twists, gloomy humour and fascinating characters that occasionally find themselves in amazingly awkward, almost human situations. Meet Great-grandmère, Great-grandpère, Father, Mother and Timothy on this passing through the House with ninety-nine or one hundred chimneys, and discover who are hidden in the cellar, and who live in the attic.Ray Bradbury painted a fabulous image in this book, with colourful words in dark shades. From the Dust Returned is a book I can recommend for people who like and/or appreciate a look at the dark side of unlife.
    bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    B.T. (aka Before Twilight) there were other vampire stories. This particular one is a collection of connected stories about the Elliotts, an Illinois family of vampires. The story is told through the eyes of Timothy, a 10-year-old mortal boy who was dropped off at the Elliotts house when he was a baby. The family includes Cecy, who sleeps eternally but travels about by possessing other people's bodies, Great Grandmère, Nefertiti's mummified mother and Uncle Einar, a jovial character who can fly. The stories seem disconnected. They present interesting characters, but it seems like Bradbury never quite fleshes any of them out. I've really enjoyed some of his books, like The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, but this one didn't work for me. I never cared about anyone in the book. The audiobook I listened to included an interview with Bradbury at the end. He talked about creating the characters based on his own relatives. Illustrator Charles Addams worked on an illustration inspired by the stories and later they became the basis for his creation The Addams Family.
    wendyrey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Part fairy tale part fantasy, with a touch of magical realism, a book assembled out of a number of short stories written over much of Ray Bradbury's life. All the bits fit together reasonably well but it left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied.Interesting
    jpsnow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Bradbury based this novel on short stories he wrote over 50 years ago. His afterword gives credit to Adams, who's illustration also graces the cover. Bradbury says all of the characters were based on his own family. Each chapter is a short story in itself, most of which spin a fascinating and unique character or plot. I was especially captivated by the telling of Cecy, Angelina Marguerite, A Thousand Times Great Grandmere, Grandpere, and the Theban Voice.
    SharonGoforth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors.  The more I read his work, the more I admire him.  The man is a genius with words and creates some of the most interesting characters ever to grace a page.  From the Dust Returned is no exception.  It is the extended play version of his brilliant short story, The Homecoming, As with many of Bradbury's novels, From the Dust Returned is actually a compilation of short stories, several of which have been published individually over the past 60 years.  The stories are held together with loosely connecting chapters which gives them the continuity needed to form a novel.  What is really neat about From the Dust Returned is that we learn the beginnings of the Elliot family, their wonderfully creepy house,  and just how the human boy Timothy came to be part of this ghoulish family.  It also extends the events after the Homecoming, and surprisingly, reveals a huge dilemma for the dead:  no one believes in them any more.  Because of this, all the ghosts and ghouls are being forced from their homes and into oblivion.One of the most moving chapters was the story of Miss Minerva Halliday, a nurse and passenger on the Orient Express, and the ghost she encounters and befriends on her journey.  He seems to be visibly melting before her eyes:"He arrived this night, moving with a terrible slowness, to sit across the aisle from this woman of some years, her bosom like a fortress, her brow serene, her eyes filled with a kindness that had mellowed with time.  There was a black medical bag at her side, and a thermometer tucked in her mannish lapel pocket.  The ghastly man's paleness caused her left hand to crawl up along her lapel to touch her thermometer."Oh, dear," whispered Miss Minerva Halliday.  The maitre d' was passing.  She touched his elbow and nodded across the aisle."Pardon, but where is that poor man going?"  "Calais and London, madam.  If God is willing."  And he hurried off.Minerva Halliday, her appetite gone, stared across at that skeleton made of snow.  The man and the cutlery laid before him seemed one.  The knives, forks and spoons jingled with a silvery cold sound.  He listened, fascinated, as if to the voice of his inner soul as the cutlery crept, touched, chimed; a tintinnabulation from another sphere.  His hands lay in his lap like lonely pets, and when the train swerved around a long curve his body, mindless, swayed now this way, now that, toppling.At which moment the train took a greater curve, and knocked the silverware chittering.  A woman at a far table, laughing, cried out:  "I don't believe it!"  To which a man with a louder laugh shouted:  "Nor do I!"  This coincidence caused, in the ghastly passenger, a terrible melting.  The doubting laughter had pierced his ears.  He visibly shrank.  His eyes hollowed and one could almost imagine a cold vapor gasped from his mouth.Miss Minerva Halliday, shocked, leaned forward and put out one hand.  She heard herself whisper:  "I believe."  The effect was instantaneous.  The ghastly passenger sat up.  Color returned to his white cheeks.  His eyes glowed with a rebirth of fire." (pgs. 103-105)Bradbury's message in this book is clear.  He wants us to remember these stories, these ghouls and ghosts, and to not forget those who have gone before us.
    Mendoza on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    From the Dust Returned chronicles a community of eternal beings: a mummified matriarch who speaks in dust; a sleeping daughter who lives through the eyes and ears of the creatures she visits in her dreams; an uncle with wings like sea-green sails. And there is also the mortal child Timothy, the foundling son who yearns to be like those he loves: to fly, to sleep in daytime, and to live forever. Instead, his task is to witness the family's struggle with the startling possibility of its own end.The dream-like atmosphere is enough to lull one into a mind-set where truly, a family such as this, can exist. This is relatively a quick read, but one that had been definitely worth revisiting. I think, that next the Dandelion Wine this is my favorite of his.
    TheTwoDs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    More of a series of interconnected stories, some of which have been published in various collections through the years, than a novel. As such, there is a disjointedness that prevents the overall story from ever taking flight. Still, the lyricism of Bradbury's writing is as present as ever in this slight, yet enjoyable, read.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I was the most bored I've EVER been with a book. I finally just quit reading about half way through.
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    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I read this book years ago, yet the plot and beautiful language has stuck with me throughout the years. Bradbury makes each character so unique in his/her own way yet strings them all together in an unforgettable tale. I would Highly recommend this book to anyone
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Bradbury does a wonderful job with this one. His use of poetic language and imagery is very interesting. I enjoyed this book very much and would recommaned it to anyone.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This has to be one of Bradbury's best. The plot is excellent, the characters are realistic, and the pacing is top-notch. To think that Bradbury pasted this masterwork together from a few short stories that he wrote in the 40's. That is an amazing fact within itself. Highly recommened.