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A Review of
The Silence of Eternity
by Roald Tweet, Augustana College

The Silence of Eternity

The Silence of Eternity, by local historian Lloyd H. Efflandt, is a record of the growth of two cemeteries in Moline, Illinois. While this subject matter at first seems too specialized to find a wide audience, it is a book which turns out to be well worth reading for anyone interested in regional history, especially in the customs and mores of the Midwest.

Cemeteries have always had a wide fascination in our culture, from the ghost and horror stories of Halloween to serious works such as Wilder's Our Town and Masters' Spoon River Anthology. Here they are mythic places of both hope and sadness, lost dreams and eternal truths. Even in real life, the landscaped, well-groomed grounds of cemeteries make them seem peaceful and idyllic places.

In telling the story of Moline cemeteries, historian Efflandt has chosen not to write another conventional book of this sort. This is not another collection of sayings from tombstones and reflections on the lives of the people buried there. Instead, using the minutes of the Moline Cemetery Association going back to 1851, Efflandt reveals the story behind the peaceful rows of tombstones. We learn that cemeteries do not just appear on the landscape, they are the result of real life, nitty-gritty transactions: laborious real estate acquisitions, political and ethical squabbles, personality conflicts, changing customs and values. Cemeteries are part of the human drama by which towns are founded and prosper.

The result is a lively history of more than just two cemeteries. Here are prominent names like Deere and Huntoon. We watch neighborhoods and values change. When a cemetery changes its name from Valhalla to Memorial Park, that says something about changing ethnicity and even differing attitudes toward death. What we have here, finally, is a community history.

An important part of Mr. Efflandt's method is to let the people involved speak for themselves from the minutes of the Cemetery Association. He has selected only the important conversations, debates, and voices. Even the changing style of minute taking is revealing. The result reads more like a play than a dusty, matter-of-fact record. Even embezzlement makes its way into this story.

It is clear that historian Efflandt cares about his subject—and about sharing with his readers—so there are moments in the book when he cannot help himself, when the historian gives way to the philosopher or even the poet. In between the chapters based on the minutes are others in which the author reflects on the vagaries of life. These are among the best moments in the book: a sentence here and there which the author knocks off with such flair that we have to pause a moment, stand back and admire. Of course, Mr. Efflandt is standing back with us readers admiring those sentences. It is this disarming quality of the book that adds so much to its interest.

Notice Regarding Book Reviews
Editor's Note: The editor will publish book notices and critical reviews of newly published and forthcoming titles that examine topics related to the history and culture of Illinois. Guidelines regarding form, length, and style may be obtained either at the ISHS Web Site or by contacting the editorial staff. Completed reviews or material for review may be sent to: Jon Austin, Editor, Illinois Heritage Magazine, The Illinois State Historical Society, 1 Old State Capitol Plaza, Springfield, IL 62701-1507.

I L L I N O I S   H E R I T A G E   17

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