Saturday, March 9, 2013

Snapper by Brian Kimberling

Snapper by Brian Kimberling is a fictional memoir of sorts, about a young man who is in love with a free spirited woman who won’t commit to him and who monitors birds for the government in the woodlands of Indiana. 

The narrator seems to be trying to be positive about Indiana while shedding light on its shortcomings, but it really comes across as anti-Indiana. (For example, “if Indiana is the bastard son of the Midwest, then Evansville is Indiana’s snot-nosed stepchild.”) 

There are passages that are well written and interesting, and that’s why I kept reading and finished it, but it did not hold together as a book for me. One example of a passage I liked: “Indiana is rural, agricultural, and surrounded by bully states with great confidence in their own sophistication.” I am guessing that much of this is truly autobiographical, and perhaps the book would have worked better as nonfiction. (The cover says the author “grew up in southern Indiana and spent two years working as a professional birdwatcher”.)  
The book is basically a series of short stories and is a good book for picking up and putting down instead of reading in one sitting. As a bird lover, I especially enjoyed the chapter that begins "There are three ways to inspect a bald eagle's nest." It includes a story about an eagle stealing a fisherman's fish, the man threatening to shoot the eagle, and the eagle's mate attacking the man. It sounds like it is based on a real incident the author observed. The author notes, "Contrary to popular conception, bald eagles have no diving scream. When you hear it in movies, it's a dubbed recording of the noble red-tailed hawk." I was pleased to see this in print as I tell people this frequently.

The title is not very representative of the whole book. There is an incident when the narrator is a child involving a snapping turtle, but the incident was not, in my opinion, important enough to be used as the book’s title.

If you are a fan of quirky literary fiction, or like to read about Indiana, Snapper might appeal to you. I read an advance reader’s edition of Snapper. It will be published in April.

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