Sunday, October 20, 2013
Brian Kimberling's Snapper vacillates between being a love letter to a wry Dear Jane letter and settles somewhere in between. Instead of writing to a girl, Kimberling writes to the state of Indiana, the state where he grew up, but now sees all the more clearly for having moved away. Somewhere in his creative writing journey, someone must have suggested Kimberling write about what he knows best and he decided to write about his home state. He captures Indiana perfectly, revealing both the beauty and the blemishes.
This debut novel is a connected series of stories and vignettes about coming of age in Southern Indiana. The book opens with the main character, Nathan Lochmueller, working as a research assistant monitoring songbirds. The chapters move forward and backward through time, as Nathan covers the territory, mapping bird populations and observing human nature. Memorable characters include Lola, a free spirited on-again off-again girl friend and Shane, a life-long friend who once had a dramatic encounter with a snapping turtle.
You don't have to be from Indiana to enjoy this book. In fact, you might enjoy it more if you aren't from Indiana because the book points out many flaws in the Hoosier state. Snapper is a poignant look at growing up and how your hometown experiences shape your character forever.