x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Book review: Snapper's characters are meticulously crafted in this ode to Indiana

A bit thin on plot, but the people are as colourful as the birds in Brian Kimberling's novel Snapper


Brian Kimberling

Tinder Press

Snapper comes across as Brian Kimberling's love-hate letter to his home state of Indiana. The story of Nathan Lochmueller, a field researcher or "professional bird watcher", is peppered with colourful characters, historical accounts, travel directions, recipes, mathematical equations, jokes and improbable anecdotes.

Nathan's tepid life includes trudging off to the forest six days a week to record and calculate details of every millimetre of southern Indiana. He entertains himself by giving human names to recognisable birds, writing embellished documentation of his observations and giving bad directions to hunters. Finding himself wedged between a career he struggles to be proud of and want of a life larger than his surroundings, Nathan sees his life in Indiana as something he was afflicted with at birth. Thanks to his unrequited love of a free-spirited woman named Lola, Nathan just can't let go.

The rather plotless story comes across as a bit disjointed as the vignettes are not presented chronologically. The characters, however, even those only briefly touched upon, are carved meticulously and offer insight into who Nathan is and to the place he calls home.

* Ellen Fortini