The Speaking Stone: Stories Cemeteries Tell is a literary love letter to the joys of wandering graveyards. While working on a novel, author and longtime Cincinnati resident Michael Griffith starts visiting Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, the nation’s third-largest cemetery. Soon he’s taking almost daily jaunts, following curiosity and accident wherever they lead. The result is this fascinating collection of essays that emerge from chance encounters with an interesting headstone, odd epitaph, unusual name, or quirk of memory. Researching obituaries, newspaper clippings, and family legacies, Griffith uncovers stories of race, feminism, art, and death.
Rather than sticking to the cemetery’s most famous, or infamous, graves, Griffith stays true to the principle of ramble and incidental discovery. The result is an eclectic group of subjects, ranging from well-known figures like the feminist icon and freethinker Fanny Wright to those much less celebrated— a spiritual medium, a temperance advocate, a young heiress who died under mysterious circumstances. Nearly ninety photos add dimension and often an element of playfulness.
The Speaking Stone examines what endures and what does not, reflecting on the vanity and poignancy of our attempt to leave monuments that last. In doing so, it beautifully weaves connections born out of the storyteller’s inquisitive mind.