A short story, written by Ray Bradbury and published for the first time in "Mademoiselle" magazine in 1946. Sometimes published as just "Homecoming" without "the" in the front. The story has subsequently been published in a variety of anthologies, including Bradbury's own "The October Country" and a 2006 republication of the story in book form, with illustrations by Dave McKean.

The story focuses on Timothy, a young boy who lives in a house of horrors. Everyone in his family is a monster of one sort or another -- immortals, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, telepaths, mummies, and more. Timothy is adopted and the only normal human in the family, but he's tolerated, even loved. They don't prey on him, but they do pity him. He pities himself, too -- he'd so dearly love to be like them. But now, the family is approaching the happiest time of the year -- Halloween, and even better, it's time for the Homecoming, when all the monsters and spirits and terrors from all over the world get together for a grand reunion. Will Timothy ever gain acceptance among his monstrous family?

There are several important characters in this story, some drawn in fine detail, some in broad strokes. There are Timothy's parents, loving but distant. There is Spid, Timothy's pet spider, who is smarter than he looks. There is Uncle Einar, a winged man with great love for Timothy -- when other members of his extended family ignore Timothy or try to scare him, Einar greets him warmly and loudly, flies him through the air, and encourages him that someday he'll be special like the rest of them. There is Cecy, Timothy's sister, who lies nearly comatose in her bed upstairs -- but her mind roams freely throughout the world, possessing humans, animals, and even leaves. She's a loving sister, but she can also be, like many other siblings, very, very cruel. There is Thousand Times Great Grandmère, wrapped in her ancient cerements.

It's not really a scary story. It's more of a valentine for those of us who've always wished we could have our own family of monsters, who've always felt more comfortable dreaming of horrors than living our own horrifically dreary lives, who start checking off the days 'til Halloween when they wake up on the morning of November 1. It's also a very sad story. We know, just as Timothy knows, that we'll never live in those special skins that our dreams are wrapped in. The last couple hundred words of the story are the saddest you'll ever read in American fiction. "Even in the midst of life, we are in death." Those words are true of all of us, but especially for Timothy. He's separated from normal humanity by growing up in a family of immortals, and he's separated from his family because he is the only one of them who will truly die. He's alone. We're alone, too.

Bradbury has written a number of other works with their roots in "The Homecoming" -- short stories like "Uncle Einar," "The April Witch," "On the Orient North," "West of October," and others, and in 2001, he collected all his stories of the family, now dubbed the Elliotts, into a novel called "From the Dust Returned" that told the story of how the family came to be and how they were ultimately destroyed.

Like all of Bradbury's works, "The Homecoming" is lyrically and beautifully written -- face-cracking when it's funny, spine-shivering when it's creepy, heart-breaking when it's sad. If you haven't read it yet, go read it now. You'll enjoy it.

a review for fearquest