Synopsis

Part 1: The Beginning of the End

Bryant Mayfield is an American Indian launching a beer brewery in Indiana. Selling his beer at a baseball game, he meets Estelline, a biology graduate student. When they see each other at a lecture, he endears himself to her and they begin dating.

Estelline’s labwork involves a long-term dietary study of elderly men living in community together as religious brothers. The data she collects surfaces strange patterns: the brothers seem to be growing younger and their blood samples reveal the presence of a pregnancy hormone. The Vatican sends a Devil’s Advocate—an investigator of miracles—to challenge the findings, and a preliminary conclusion finds a scientific cause: these men are naturally evolving past aging.

Isabel DuPree, coroner, investigates the cause of death of a body found near a migrant labor camp. Her inquiry leads her to a tienda managed by Carlos Siego, who supervises the camp. She begins to suspect him when the body turns out to be that of a foreman who was organizing workers.

Bryant and Estelline get married and decide to begin a family, but halfway through her pregnancy, Estelline wakes in the middle of the night, bleeding. Bryant rushes her to the hospital, and she is whisked away by doctors who return to tell Bryant she has died.

Part 2: The End

Bryant is devastated by Estelline’s death and seeks to find hope in volunteer work. He assists at a tutoring center for immigrant families, where he is asked to mentor a boy, Rafa, son of the murdered foreman. Rafa has taken a vow of silence as a sign of his mourning.

Isabel’s investigation is sidetracked by a spreading phenomenon: the natural death rate in the county is crawling to a stop. The local bishop, sensing these changes as a portent, begins training the brothers using the discipline and play inherent to the game of baseball.

Rafa opens Bryant’s eyes to the system of oppression exploiting the migrant workers, and Bryant decides to join a work crew to learn more. Mistaken for a rebellious worker, he is singled out by Carlos’ thugs, clubbed, and drowned in nearby Lake Michigan.

Part 3: The End of Ending

Bryant’s body washes up on the shore of the lake after being under ice for several winter months. When it thaws on the autopsy table, he suddenly starts breathing again. He begins a long process of healing in the hospital, and regains his full capacity (and perhaps more). Recovering makes him wonder if Estelline might be returning from the dead as well, and he decides to exhume her body. When he digs her up, though, he finds nothing but decay.

Hearing that Bryant is still alive, Carlos follows him and sees Estelline’s exhumation. He watches Bryant hide her body inside a giant furnace in his brewing warehouse, the site of an old glass factory.

Rafa tries to steal a bookkeeping ledger from Carlos’ tienda as evidence to further the case of his father’s murder. Carlos’ thugs seize Rafa, though, and take him to Bryant’s brewery, where they plan to cremate him in the furnace. Bryant intervenes, but they overpower him and throw him into the furnace with Estelline’s body.

When they ignite the furnace, Bryant is greeted by the glorified form of his daughter, who died with Estelline in the miscarriage, and his own body remains unharmed. The elderly brothers arrive at the factory in time to free Rafa — now agile and strong, they defeat Carlos’ thugs. Isabel begins a protocol for families to welcome back to life their deceased loved ones, and, with his family, Rafa prepares to care for the restoring body of his father.

The novel ends with the Estelline returning to consciousness at home, in Bryant’s arms.

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