"From the Dust Returned" by Ray Bradbury Book Summary

by Alice Drinkworth

Ray Bradbury published "From the Dust Returned" in 2001. The novel idea began in his childhood, when an unusual house celebration for Halloween, a jovial uncle and other family members made memories that later turned into setting and characters. "From the Dust Returned" is a science fiction tale about ghosts unlike those imagined by any other author. These ghosts don't carry chains. They use wings to fly or travel in their dreams.

The House

The novel takes place in the house on the hill, where the Elliott family gathers for a reunion every Halloween. Ghastly creatures, ghosts and immortals who know each other as cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews or nieces, find refuge and camaraderie inside the dusty attic. The house becomes a target as the inhabitants become something to fear for living too long and knowing too much.

The Family

Bradbury first wrote about the Elliott family in "The Traveler," a short story published in "Weird Tales" magazine in 1945. Five other previously published short stories starring one or more members of this immortal family are integrated in "From the Dust Returned." Cecy, the One Who Dreams, travels in her dreams, visiting the minds of amoebas, birds in flight and women falling in love. Uncle Einar can fly with his powerful wings but finds trouble when he is struck by lightning. Great Grandmere, who is more than 4,000 years old, speaks in dust and knows all the secrets about death.


Timothy, called the historian, was found on the doorstep of the house as in infant in a basket. A mortal among the immortals, he bemoans his lack of powers. His reflection shows in a mirror. He cannot fly. He is not invisible. He prefers to be awake during the day, when his immortal family members must sleep. He wishes to be like his family members, to possess a power of his own. When his family is in peril, he understands the burden time can be. He strives to live up to the expectations of the family, to remember them as well as a mortal can. Like any good historian, he makes strides to preserve those memories for all.

Timothy's Friends

Timothy feels alone as the only mortal in his family, but he is never alone. Anuba the cat follows him around. A ghost mouse that escaped an Egyptian Pharaoh's tomb is often tucked in his pocket. Arach, the spider, hides in his ear. It is clear there is nothing usual about Timothy from the friends he keeps.


"From the Dust Returned" is a collection of tales about the rise and fall of an immortal family. Some chapters feel disjointed from the plot but provide a better understanding of the dead, death and ghosts in Bradbury's fictional universe.


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