Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Snapper – Brian Kimberling

Bird researcher, Nathan Lochmueller, works in a square mile of forest in the backwaters of Indiana. His job is to map the territory, record details of the local bird population and report on their habits, antics and happenings. In the first chapter we meet Gerald, a sad, lonely, genius ornithologist working at Indiana University and the person who offers Nathan this unusual job. The two first meet through the enigmatic Lola, the love of Nathan’s life and a free spirited beauty who finds it difficult to be faithful to him, only coming back when she gets bored with her latest conquest. Lola and Gerald are neighbours.

In the following chapters we meet many of the characters who bring meaning and unique experiences into Nathan’s life. Amongst them are Shane, Nathan’s childhood friend and another of their school friends, Eddie, who later becomes the proprietor of Fast Eddie’s Beer and Burger Bar where the customers are encouraged to provide their own entertainment during events such as “Thong Thursday’s”. Nathan’s Uncle Dart, a big, bold Texan, makes an appearance when he stroll’s into Indiana bringing Texas with him. Gypsy Moth is born when Lola decides to decorate Nathan’s almost broken down truck with glitter painted butterflies and renames it. These are but a few of the vast array of characters that pepper Nathan’s life but none of them play as big a role as the birds in the forest and the townsfolk. It is really a story of Nathan’s love for his hometown, Indiana, it’s people and the lessons he learns from them.

The writing style is enjoyable with each chapter effectively forming a short story in itself, which then follow along, more or less, chronologically. Through them we weave in and out of various meaningful events of Nathan’s life from his early childhood to his job as a bird researcher, to his departure from Indiana and his eventual return. Some of the characters appear several times and some only once. When I read that Brian Kimberling grew up in Indiana and took part in a bird study project whilst studying at Indiana University, I was not surprised and began to wonder how much of this story is autobiographical. I don’t know the answer to that question but I do know that it is told with wit, humour and the author shows a great perception of the human condition. I enjoyed the matter-of-fact way character flaws in people are observed without judgement.

Snapper is a great read, sometimes laugh out loud funny and I now have a new found respect for the heroic antics of female ovenbirds and Kentucky warblers as they try to defend their nests. Brian Kimberling is now on my “Author to Watch” list.


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