The End of Ending by Josh Noem
Josh Noem is the editor of The Grotto (grottonetwork.com) a publication of Notre Dame University, and a student of theology, a graduate of Notre Dame’s MDiv program. I met him about a month ago at the South Bend Public Library where we were both showing our books at a convention. He was kind enough to gift me an autographed paperback copy of his award-winning debut novel, The End of Ending.
This is a novel about baseball, beer, and a love that is stronger than death. Noem includes an interesting cast of characters in the fictitious city of Andover, Indiana, including a courageous Native American brewer from South Dakota, several Catholic priests, (some drunk and some not,) some confused coroners, and some migrant field laborers. The unique mix of characters represents Indiana (and South Dakota) well, and Noem holds his mystery lightly, like a sparrow or a tiny frog cupped in his hands, not wanting to open his hand to the world too quickly.
I’m not sure what to say about the overall plot except that there might be zombies… But not the kind you probably think of if you’re a Walking Dead fan. Noem’s vision of an afterlife on earth is beautiful, shimmering like a rain-soaked diamond under the lights; a baseball diamond, that is.
For Noem, baseball is a metaphor for eternity and beer signifies community, and I affirm both of these ideas. However, I was a little disappointed, since the cover image is a photo the author himself took of the South Bend Cubs in action at Four Winds Field, to find that there wasn’t a single professional baseball player among the cast. I guess the cover led me to believe I was getting something like Bull Durham or The Field of Dreams, but Noem fell short of making this a real baseball story.
That’s not so much a criticism as a warning to readers; if you hanker for baseball as I do in March, before the White Sox go on a 1-9 slide, this isn’t that book. But if you love baseball and beer, and you love literature more than the former two things, then you’re in the right place. If you’ve lost a loved one and are looking for a glimpse of hope that you’ll see them one day in the Great Outfield Beyond, The Park Without a Fence, then this might just be the book for you.
Next time Noem comes out with a new novel, I’ll buy it. I’m hoping it has more baseball in it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it does, because if there’s one thing I know about Josh Noem, he is a baseball fan. But whatever he decides to do, it is bound to clean up even more literary awards, because Noem is a slugger. Here’s a link to Noem’s website. And a link to The End of Ending on Amazon.