Kimberling, Brian, (c. 2013). Snapper. Pantheon Books. 210 pages , $24.95.
Nathan stumbles in and out of his memories as he studies the songbirds of southern Indiana telling the tale of his journey from adolescence to adulthood.
Nathan Lochmuller discovers that he has a gift for tracking songbirds and spends his post-graduate years in southern Indiana as a research assistant doing just that. The pay is poor but he loves the “office”. Told in a series of short stories, Nathan exposes his unrequited love for the evasive, yet alluring Lola and shares experiences from his youth that have helped to shape him into the man he is learning to become. A lyrical and absorbing tale, the past and present fit neatly together as Nathan introduces the characters that have become his world.
This is the story of a young man’s coming of age, told from the perspective of an older man reminiscing about his days as a birdwatcher in the woods of southern Indiana. The summary does not do justice to the pull of this novel that takes you from the misadventures of bored teenagers to the random letter writing at the truck stop outside the town of Santa Claus. Kimberling’s debut novel is beautifully written with engaging characters. This is one that definitely lingers after reading it knowing that it’s not about getting what you want but about wanting what you get.
Booklist Editor’s Choice – Best Fiction Books-2013
An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender.
Lightning by Jean Echenoz
Book Discussion Questions:
1. Animals play an important part in this story, especially birds. How do you think the animals help define the different characters and situations? How does Kimberling use them to make the characters more three dimensional?
2. “I got my job by accident” is the opening line for the novel. How does this set the tone for the entire book and help initially define the main character, Nathan?
3. Nathan’s relationships come and go over time. How would you characterize them? How do his relationships evolve as the story unfolds?
4. Would you consider Snapper a series of short stories or a novel? How do you define a story? Can you write , as Ernest Hemingway did, a story in just six words?
5. Why did he call the novel, “Snapper”?
Reasons for selection:
This book is part of Nancy Pearl’s 2013 “Books that make great gifts” list. Admittedly I was far more intrigued by the cover than I was by the summary and picked it up from the shelf because I had recognized it. Like many on this list, I’m glad I did. I enjoyed Kimberling’s take on life in Indiana and his lyrical writing depicting the beauty of the country.