Snapper by Brian Kimberling


Snapper was recommended by Nancy Pearl who disagreed with the NPR reviewer who said Indiana was a major character in the novel. The NPR reviewer was right.

It is set in southern Indiana, particularly in Evansville, but the countryside, rivers in the area, and Bloomington make it into the story. The narrator is Nathan Lochmueller who observes and records detailed information about birds around the area for various university biology departments and the forestry service when we first meet him. Nathan tells us stories from his life, ranging over his high school years to university times and his bird-watching work. The best parts of the book are his descriptions of work in the woods.

His stories focus on the wild characters of his life, like Eddie who became the successful proprietor of a drinking establishment that had "Thong Night." Eddie saved his friend Shane's life when his thumb was bitten off by a snapping turtle while the three boys were hoping to get the turtle to pull them in a boat. Then there was the love of his life Lola, who never could stay focused on a particular man for long. And there was his uncle who moved to Indiana from Texas.  In one of the more mystifying episodes, the uncle, a man who put up his vintage "Whites Only" sign in his yard to be funny, is repulsed by the invitation of locals to join the Klan and finds the local customs unacceptable.  "They would never do that in Texas," his wife intones. What?

Nathan tells his stories from the vantage point of a 40-something father who has moved to New Hampshire. He and his pregnant wife come back to visit his parents and the author is at his most eloquent when he describes the beauty of that area of Indiana. Some episodes more more interesting than others, but throughout I found Nathan's voice to be engaging. 

Available at UVa, the public library, Amazon.

Brian Kimberling, Snapper, Pantheon, 2013, 224 pages. I listened to the audiobook version.

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