If anyone has harbored lingering doubts over Ray Bradbury's worthiness to receive the 2000 National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, From the Dust Returned should dispel them. A novel over a half-century in the crafting, Bradbury's latest has its origins in a series of 1940s short stories about a remarkable eternal clan making their home in a gothic mansion above a sleepy Illinois town. The Elliots (the original inspiration for Chas. Addams "The Addams Family" -- in fact, Addams' artwork graces the book's cover), like any family, have skeletons in their closets. Unlike most prosaic households, however, they also have mummies in the attic and ghosts sleeping in dustbins. And the time is come for a family reunion -- a great gathering of vampires and werewolves, winged men and fading wraiths from around the world.
The family's adopted mortal son, the foundling Timothy, is charged with recording the Elliot history. Desperate to fit in with his adoptive kin, the boy seeks advice and assistance from his fascinating elders: A Thousand Times Great Grandmere, a pharaoh's daughter mummified four thousand years ago, "wrapped in spider linens and warm-breath silks," whose voice is the softest ancient whisper; Cecy, a sleeper stretched on a bed of white Japanese garden sand, the fairest and most special daughter, who dreams herself into other people's minds; Uncle Einar, eight feet tall, three hundred pounds and winged, whose run-in with a high tension tower leaves him unable to fly at night, but also finds him his mortal bride; and a host of other ghouls whose stories are as strange and wonderful.
From the Dust Returned spells readers into a mesmerizing dreamscape west of Bradbury's October. Innocent, funny, sad and sage, the far-ranging adventures of the Elliots are knit together by Bradbury's astounding imagery, breathless with a sense of awe-stricken wonder. Here's a chance for adult readers to recapture the magic of childhood fairy tales -- this is a beautiful book, written by a man whose love and mastery of the English language shows.