Reviews for Snapper

Booklist Reviews 2012 December #1
*Starred Review* In those awkward, drifting, postcollege years, when many young men find themselves working behind a counter, Nathan Lochmueller learns he has a gift for tracking songbirds. Given a job as a research assistant, he becomes intimately familiar with one square mile of south central Indiana near Bloomington, where he imagines himself in kinship with the great naturalists of early America. The pay is poor, but the woods provide solace through rocky, hand-to-mouth years, during which Nathan pines for the lovely but free-spirited Lola and experiences the growing apart that accompanies growing up. Told with precise and memorable prose in beautifully rendered, time-shifted vignettes, Snapper richly evokes the emotions of coming to adulthood. Nathan's fascination with the physical world and with living an authentic and meaningful life, his disdain for jingoistic environmentalism, and his struggle to find balance between the cloistered liberalism of college towns and the conservatism of small towns are thoughtfully explored. All this, and it's funny, too. Whether it's a snapping turtle biting off a friend's finger or a borrowed dog finding a human thigh bone in a cemetery, Kimberling writes gracefully about absurdity, showing a rich feeling for the whole range of human tragicomedy. A delightful debut. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2013 May
Birdbrain revelations

An ornithologist by choice and trade, Nathan loves the world of birds, but as a character he is as much Tom Sawyer as John James Audubon. And fascinating as some of his bird-related research may be (for instance, Eastern Phoebes and Yellow Warblers have responded very differently to climate change), by the end of Snapper, Nathan has learned more about people than any other creature.

Brian Kimberling’s charming first novel immortalizes moments along Nathan’s journey to inner perception in quirky chapters of self-discovery, as he grows up in Indiana—and can’t wait to get out of it. Almost capable of standing alone as short stories themselves, each chapter sheds new light on Nathan’s life journey: his loves, his friendships and his response to health problems.

Time works its black magic on everyone, and readers see Nathan growing up before their eyes, as he navigates Uncle Dart and Aunt Loretta (“who didn’t just come from Texas, they brought it with them”); Lola, his first and persistent love; and Shane, his lifelong friend. Ruefully Nathan arrives at a perverse truth that will restore your faith in the ultimate survival of the best qualities of the human character, especially an acceptance of human nature itself.

Kimberling, a former birdwatcher, now lives in England, where lessons learned in Indiana no doubt hold true as well. With its story of eventual maturity and understanding, Snapper (a reference to a turtle who made a lasting impression on Nathan and his friends, as they unfortunately did on him) is one of those rare books that reads like a breezy exercise of a novel but leaves a profound and lasting impression.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 February #1
A sad-sack ornithologist navigates the wilds of southern Indiana and its quirky denizens. Kimberling's debut is a collection of linked stories narrated by Nathan Lochmueller, a smart but mostly luckless man who stumbles into a job monitoring bird patterns. The pay is awful, and Nathan is conflicted about how his unfaithful girlfriend, Lola, helped him get the gig. But at least the job introduces him to a colorful, if occasionally scarifying, array of characters: He meets diner patrons who reply to kids' letters to Santa Claus, would-be mushroom-hunters, ersatz Klansmen and dimwitted bureaucrats who legislate on the environment without knowing the first thing about it. As Nathan notes, southern Indiana is an odd mix of levelheaded Midwest culture and oddball Southern folkways, and Kimberling's prose nicely evokes this culture clash: His unusual scenarios are rendered with a wry, self-deprecating wit. Violence abounds on Nathan's turf--a snapping turtle takes off a friend's thumb (hence the title), a drunk friend takes a two-by-four to a few parking meters, a stoner pal is stabbed, and Nathan himself gets pushed down a flight of stairs--but more as evidence of life's absurdity than of its tragedy. Kimberling's stories have depth, but he never forces a message on them; a chapter in which Nathan comes across a human bone in a graveyard is handled with easy humor instead of ponderous metaphor. This book has enough of a story arc that the fact that it's not a full-fledged novel is somewhat frustrating: We learn about Lola's romantic wanderings but not enough to suggest their full impact on Nathan, and while Nathan's emotional evolution in the closing story is a pleasant surprise, it's a jarring one--a more intricately structured tale could give his character more resonance. A well-turned debut that airdrops its characters into an appealingly offbeat milieu. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 November #1

When a publicist says that a book is punch-in-the-gut-affecting and she wants to scream it from the rooftops, I sit up and listen. Now I'm sold on this debut. The topic might seem improbable--Nathan Lochmueller is a bird researcher in southern Indiana--but (as might be expected of playwright Kimberling) the characters immediately attract: there's seductive Lola, a Fast Eddie Burgers proprietor (he thought up "Thong Thursdays"), vainglorious Uncle Dart, a German Shepherd that howls/growls backup, and a snapping turtle. Sharp dialog (well, maybe not from the turtle), also to be expected from a playwright; a big promotional push.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 November #3

Kimberling, formerly a professional birdwatcher, grew up in southern Indiana, the setting of his catchy, well-written debut novel. Nathan Lochmueller, a recent philosophy graduate, takes a low-paying job as a songbird researcher at his alma mater, Indiana University, during the mid-1990s. He spends all his time tramping through the forest, where he gives songbirds pet names and encounters eccentrics like a Vietnam veteran scrounging for morel mushrooms. When he's not bird-watching, Nathan maintains a puzzling "complicated" friendship with the "lovely" Lola who refuses to marry him until it's too late. The immature, often humorous Nathan and his equally clueless best friend Shane try smoking dried banana peels, and drunken Nathan gets arrested for destroying parking meters with a different friend. His uncouth brother, Darren, also a college graduate, is assaulted by his knife-wielding coke fiend roommate and recuperates at Nathan's digs. They quarrel over Darren's dope dealing; he attacks Nathan; and the resulting ear damage ends Nathan's songbird researcher career. Nathan, past 30 and still aimless, pins his hopes on a lead to work at a Vermont raptor hospital, but his love-hate relationship with Indiana makes it difficult to move away in Kimberling's accomplished, ironic Midwest coming-of-age tale. Agent: Will Francis, Janklow & Nesbit. (Apr.)

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