Commentary
5:00 am
Mon May 6, 2013

Book Review: Snapper

Snapper is a collection of stories by Brian Kimberling.

Like making new friends later in life, we learn about protagonist Nathan Lochmueller through a series of stories and back-stories. 

"I want to tell you this story, but first I have to give you this background."

Brian Kimberling
Credit npr.org

Through the help of his sometimes-girlfriend, Lola, Nathan gets a job as a professional bird watcher in Indiana. He has no expertise in the area, but instead learns on the job. And more than just watching birds, he tracks the progressive patterns of birds for different government agencies around the state.

From his treetop vantage point in the forest, he sees hunters, Ku Klux Klan members, carp-fishing rednecks attacked by bald eagles, and a lot of wildlife. Although he doesn't know a thing about birds at first, he becomes quite good at it. And just when you think this might become his life's work, he sustains hearing loss in one ear and can no longer track the birds through their songs.

For Nathan, Indiana is a state that he loathes but will not leave. He constantly insults his state and the towns within it. He says, "Indiana bills itself desperately as the 'Crossroads of America' because there isn't anything else to say about it.” Evansville takes the hardest hits throughout the book, with slams like, "if Indiana is the bastard son of the Midwest, then Evansville is Indiana's snot-nosed stepchild." He even gives us license to use "Hoosier" in all of its definitions.

It's not until Nathan moves for a job in Vermont that he looks at Indiana differently. And when returning for a visit with his new girlfriend, he begins to think that perhaps you can go home again... at least until the actions of "his people" dissuade him.

Quick, smart and funny, Snapper is well worth the read.