A series of poetic monologues by 244 former inhabitants (real and imagined) of Spoon River, Ill.-- all are dead and from their graves speak their epitaphs. A richly annotated edition resuscitates a fading American classic. Because Hallivas's pithy introduction adds both perspective and gossipy detail, YAs will enjoy learning about the individual struggles of the 244 characters who speak from the cemetery on "the hill." Secondary teachers will find this a useful tool for preparing character sketches, thanks to the lively, specific annotations naming names: who rejected whom; who challenged whom, both physically and politically--and it is all expertly researched. The microcosm of Spoon River comes alive with its central conflicts of agrarian traditionist v. temperance and abolitionist activism. From the grave, the hard-drinking, roughly hewn frontiersmen challenge the do-good social reformers, reenacting the struggle the 19th-century midwestern push kindled: would any government law prohibiting drinking or slavery impress these strong individual-rights townspeople? They offer their own answers as Masters intended, but they offer the responses against a tapestry of detail the editor provides. Hallivas's cogent essay traces the philosophical influences that marked Masters's works: Spinoza, Goethe, and especially Whitman. The inclusion of several photographs of the characters who speak adds important visual detail.