Nathan Lochmueller has spent his time in the wilderness, and in Brian Kimberling’s beguiling debut novel, “Snapper,” he invites the reader to join him. When we meet him, Nathan has just landed his first serious post-college job, collecting field data about songbirds in the Indiana woods. He is also madly in love with the elusive Lola, a red-haired beauty who, coincidentally, got him this job. The two pursuits are not exclusive, and both, it turns out, will belong to a period that the narrator looks back on in depth, and fondly, but not without regrets.
Told in vignettes rather than a straightforward narrative, this coming-of-age story darts through time like an elusive thrush through the trees. From the first page, Nathan is already reminiscing. His boss, we are told, “is a Princeton professor now. Back then he was a PhD candidate surveying the effects of habitat fragmentation on neotropical migrant songbirds in south central Indiana.” In a similar vein, the book’s scenes flit back to boyhood adventures, including one interaction with a snapping turtle, in between his adventures with birds and Lola.