Customer Reviews for

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

Average Rating 4
( 47 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

Engrossing and illuminating without any agendas

"...the snail had emerged from its shell into the alien territory of my room, with no clue as to where it was or how it had arrived; the lack of vegetation and the desertlike surroundings must have seemed strange. The snail and I were both living in altered landscapes...
"...the snail had emerged from its shell into the alien territory of my room, with no clue as to where it was or how it had arrived; the lack of vegetation and the desertlike surroundings must have seemed strange. The snail and I were both living in altered landscapes not of our choosing; I figured we shared a sense of loss and displacement."


Elisabeth Tova Bailey was in her mid-thirties when struck with a mysterious illness that soon led to her complete incapacitation. Without knowing the cause, much less the cure or the course that it might take, the disease was a frightening visitor. One day, a friend stops by with a rather odd gift. A snail, from out in the yard. First placed in a flower pot and eventually a terrarium, the snail becomes Bailey's constant companion. Because of her lack of mobility and energy, much of her time was spent observing the creature.

You might think this would be dull, or worse, that you'd be stuck listening to someone bleakly describing their every physical complaint. Not so. This book has very little to do with health issues and far more to do with curiosity and resilience. Bailey is not a complainer, actual details of her health are few and without self-pity. She doesn't simply give up either, she makes clear she wants to fight this unknown assailant on her life. That she does so with the help of a small snail is astounding.

The first surprise is that snails have a daily routine. They have certain times to eat and sleep and travel. They often return to the same place to sleep, and they sleep on their side. (!!!) As she watches the daily activities of the snail, she manages to study research on snails in general and in detail. Turns out snail research is pretty deep...volumes have been written on every tiny detail. As in: snails have teeth, 2200+ of them! Seriously, if they were bigger you'd think twice about stepping on one. They also have a special talent for when the going gets tough in their little world: they start a process called estivation. It's not hibernation (they do that too!) but instead it allows them to become dormant when the weather goes bad, or they lose their preferred food source, etc. Some snails have been known to estivate more than a few years. The process of sealing off their little shell is fascinating, and a study in insulation.

Then there's the romance. Researchers have studied that too, and I won't go into too much detail, but let's just say lady snails are not complaining about romance in their life! Male snails really knock themselves out on the charm aspect. So much of the research that is out there is fascinating, and Bailey sorts through it and shares the most interesting details. This isn't just a science project for her, she sees parallels in her condition as well as the snail's. Illness took her out of her social circle, and her life seemed slow and inconsequential. And snails usually are a typical example of slow and inconsequential living:

"Everything about a snail is cryptic, and it was precisely this air of mystery that first captured my interest. My own life, I realized, was becoming just as cryptic. From the severe onset of my illness and through its innumerable relapses, my place in the world has been documented more by my absence than by my presence. While close friends understood my situation, those who didn't know me well found my disappearance from work and social circles inexplicable."

posted by SAHARATEA on August 24, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

A gratifying read

It's hard to imagine how one would live life if severely challenged by a devastating illness. But this book shares one woman's experience and how she found meaning and even joy in a pot of violets and a little wild snail (or two or three). This is a very satisfying re...
It's hard to imagine how one would live life if severely challenged by a devastating illness. But this book shares one woman's experience and how she found meaning and even joy in a pot of violets and a little wild snail (or two or three). This is a very satisfying read.

posted by AnnieBB on June 28, 2012

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 47 Customer Reviews
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  • Posted August 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Engrossing and illuminating without any agendas

    "...the snail had emerged from its shell into the alien territory of my room, with no clue as to where it was or how it had arrived; the lack of vegetation and the desertlike surroundings must have seemed strange. The snail and I were both living in altered landscapes not of our choosing; I figured we shared a sense of loss and displacement."


    Elisabeth Tova Bailey was in her mid-thirties when struck with a mysterious illness that soon led to her complete incapacitation. Without knowing the cause, much less the cure or the course that it might take, the disease was a frightening visitor. One day, a friend stops by with a rather odd gift. A snail, from out in the yard. First placed in a flower pot and eventually a terrarium, the snail becomes Bailey's constant companion. Because of her lack of mobility and energy, much of her time was spent observing the creature.

    You might think this would be dull, or worse, that you'd be stuck listening to someone bleakly describing their every physical complaint. Not so. This book has very little to do with health issues and far more to do with curiosity and resilience. Bailey is not a complainer, actual details of her health are few and without self-pity. She doesn't simply give up either, she makes clear she wants to fight this unknown assailant on her life. That she does so with the help of a small snail is astounding.

    The first surprise is that snails have a daily routine. They have certain times to eat and sleep and travel. They often return to the same place to sleep, and they sleep on their side. (!!!) As she watches the daily activities of the snail, she manages to study research on snails in general and in detail. Turns out snail research is pretty deep...volumes have been written on every tiny detail. As in: snails have teeth, 2200+ of them! Seriously, if they were bigger you'd think twice about stepping on one. They also have a special talent for when the going gets tough in their little world: they start a process called estivation. It's not hibernation (they do that too!) but instead it allows them to become dormant when the weather goes bad, or they lose their preferred food source, etc. Some snails have been known to estivate more than a few years. The process of sealing off their little shell is fascinating, and a study in insulation.

    Then there's the romance. Researchers have studied that too, and I won't go into too much detail, but let's just say lady snails are not complaining about romance in their life! Male snails really knock themselves out on the charm aspect. So much of the research that is out there is fascinating, and Bailey sorts through it and shares the most interesting details. This isn't just a science project for her, she sees parallels in her condition as well as the snail's. Illness took her out of her social circle, and her life seemed slow and inconsequential. And snails usually are a typical example of slow and inconsequential living:

    "Everything about a snail is cryptic, and it was precisely this air of mystery that first captured my interest. My own life, I realized, was becoming just as cryptic. From the severe onset of my illness and through its innumerable relapses, my place in the world has been documented more by my absence than by my presence. While close friends understood my situation, those who didn't know me well found my disappearance from work and social circles inexplicable."

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2012

    Lovely book; an absolute gem!

    This is unlike anything I have read before. At first description I thought it might be odd but I like unusual things and decided to take a chance on reading this. It has bound me to it's pages! Being familiar with ill health, I can identify with the author's frustration at not being able to move from her bed. When she begins to care for a snail that was brought to her by a friend, the story takes on a very sweet aspect. I don't think I will ever see a snail again without thinking of this account. I am halfway through the book. I read a few pages at night and it is very interesting and soothing to contemplate the relationship between living things. This will be on my list of favorites to read again.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2012

    I bought this book because of its title. I work in a greenhouse

    I bought this book because of its title. I work in a greenhouse and am a little sentimental about the various creatures that are often called pests. Snails, especially, intrigue me. This book really is about snails and there is a great deal of information about the complex little mollusks. But it is also a memoir by a women confined by illness to a small world and her struggles with chronic fatigue syndrome. It is a soothing narrative and one that I recommend highly to anyone who wants a relaxing read about an animal we rarely think about, or befriend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A gratifying read

    It's hard to imagine how one would live life if severely challenged by a devastating illness. But this book shares one woman's experience and how she found meaning and even joy in a pot of violets and a little wild snail (or two or three). This is a very satisfying read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 5, 2011

    Lyrical and reverent natural history of a snail

    Through illness, the author finds herself in possession of the time and pace to be able to observe in great detail the life and habits of a snail, and individual who, as her only true companion and connection to the world, sustains her through the worst of her illness. She peppers the text with beautiful spare poetry featuring snails, and with observations and writings of naturalists and snail specialists, including fascinating scientific tidbits of snail biology, life cycle, and evolution. A beautiful and lyrically written short work that expresses reverence for life along with rigorous science and meticulously documented references for further reading and enjoyment. Slow down the pace of your life and revel in this short introduction to an entirely new and foreign world - that of a snail.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Very Peaceful

    I usually read WWII history, but the title grabbed me. A great relaxing read. Read and enjoy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2014

    Captivating and sensitive

    I loved this - found it hard to put down. I was drawn by the character of the narrator and by my own curiosity about her little snail friend. A quiet story that draws you in - Enjoy!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 3, 2014

    In her 30's, Ms. Bailey contracted an unknown virus after a trip

    In her 30's, Ms. Bailey contracted an unknown virus after a trip to Europe. What seemed at first to be the flu eventually turned into a two-decade struggle with a debilitating illness, leaving her bedridden for months at a time. She acquires a snail from the woods near her house and spends hours each day observing the creature. Her insights are intriguing--how many of us know what a snail likes to eat, its favorite place to sleep, or how they reproduce? With simple, easy-to-read prose, Ms. Bailey shows us how wide the world becomes when we focus on small details. Forced to slow her life to a snail's pace, the creature becomes a kindred spirit in a most profound way. I found this book to be an unexpected treat; her illness is heartbreaking, making you feel gratitude for the good health most of us take for granted, but her observations into the snail's world shows us that we move through life so quickly, invariably missing the magic of other creatures sharing the planet with us.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2012

    SNAILS

    SNAILS ARE AWESOME.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2012

    Xavier to Sky

    Go to butterfly result twenty three

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2012

    FASCINATING!

    I loved this book! I was intrigued by the title even though I had no prior interest in snails. It did not disappoint and was a very quick read...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2012

    Read The Promise by Christina Reklaitis

    This was a great book. U should also try the promise by christina reklaitis

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  • Posted January 6, 2012

    Captivating! Not only a "must" read but a *please* read!

    Elisabeth Tova Bailey's The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is rife with finespun, and fascinating, detail about a "white-lipped forest snail" and its person. The small snail captured my heart from the moment s/he munched on a withered purple flower petal! I saw the snail as a lifesaver during the long days and nights the author struggled to come to terms with her devastating and debilitating illness. For those of us who love this book, the snail might well be described as a lifeSAVOR. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating changed my perception of gastropods ~ forever. I will never view snails in the same light again nor will I ever intentionally harm a snail!

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  • Posted December 10, 2011

    highly recommend

    Delightful story of survival and resilience. Mesmerizing descriptions of the life of a wild snail that became a lifeline and true friend. My new favorite book. I use the author's website video of the snail to make me relax and it helps me find a calm place within myself.
    Love this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2011

    A touching , wonderful book

    This was a beautifully written book.It also imparts so much knowledge over some thing that we see so often but know nothing about. High Recommended.

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  • Posted March 23, 2011

    Wonderful!

    An easy, beautifully written read. The attention to detail that the author provides is astonishing. A must read, especially for the nature lovers!

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  • Posted February 9, 2011

    Simply wonderful!

    The research that went into this book is astounding. The right kind of reader will want to delve further into the science Elisabeth Tova Bailey reveals in her book. What a tribute to the spirit of this courageous woman. I look forward to reading more of her work. It is rare that a writer can appeal to the intellect and touch the heart as well.

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  • Posted January 26, 2011

    Lovely

    reflective and elegant memoir-

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  • Posted January 16, 2011

    Disappointing!

    Thought I was going to learn something about perserverence or character; not the anatomy and life of snails. Totally not what I expected.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 47 Customer Reviews
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