The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Hardcover

$18.95 View All Available Formats & Editions

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781565126060
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 08/24/2010
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author


Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s essays and short stories have been published in the Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, the Missouri Review, Northwest Review, and the Sycamore Review. The hardcover edition of The Sound of Wild Snail Eating was a Barnes & Noble Discover title, an Indie Next Pick, and a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Bailey has received several Pushcart Prize nominations (in addition to the awards listed above), and the essay on which this book is based received a Notable Essay Listing in Best American Essays. She is on the Writers Council for the National Writing Project. Winner of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, she lives in Maine.

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

Viruses are embedded into the very fabric of all life.
- Luis P. Villarreal, "The Living and Dead Chemical Called a Virus," 2005

From my hotel window I look over the deep glacial lake to the foothills and the Alps beyond. Twilight vanishes the hills into the mountains; then all is lost to the dark.

After breakfast, I wander the cobbled village streets. The frost is out of the ground, and huge bushes of rosemary bask fragrantly in the sun. I take a trail that meanders up the steep, wild hills past flocks of sheep. High on an outcrop, I lunch on bread and cheese. Late in the afternoon along the shore, I find ancient pieces of pottery, their edges smoothed by waves and time. I hear that a virulent flu is sweeping this small town.

A few days pass and then comes a delirious night. My dreams are disturbed by the comings and goings of ferries. Passengers call into the dark, startling me awake. Each time I fall back into sleep, the lake's watery sound pulls at me. Something is wrong with my body. Nothing feels right.

In the morning I am weak and can't think. Some of my muscles don't work. Time becomes strange. I get lost; the streets go in too many directions. The days drift past in confusion. I pack my suitcase, but for some reason it's impossible to lift. It seems to be stuck to the floor. Somehow I get to the airport. Seated next to me on the transatlantic flight is a sick surgeon; he sneezes and coughs continually. My rare, much-needed vacation has not gone as planned. I'll be okay; I just want to get home.

After a flight connection in Boston, I land at my small New England airport near midnight. In the parking lot, as I bend over to dig my car out of the snow, the shovel turns into a crutch that I use to push myself upright. I don't know how I get home. Arising the next morning, I immediately faint to the floor. Ten days of fever with a pounding headache. Emergency room visits. Lab tests. I am sicker than I have ever been. Childhood pneumonia, college mononucleosis - those were nothing compared to this.

A few weeks later, resting on the couch, I spiral into a deep darkness, falling farther and farther away until I am impossibly distant. I cannot come back up; I cannot reach my body. Distant sound of an ambulance siren. Distant sound of doctors talking. My eyelids heavy as boulders. I try to open them to a slit, just for a few seconds, but they close against my will. All I can do is breathe.

The doctors will know how to fix me. They will stop this. I keep breathing. What if my breath stops? I need to sleep, but I am afraid to sleep. I try to watch over myself; if I go to sleep, I might never wake up again.

1. Field Violets
at my feetwhen did you get here?snail
- Kobayashi Issa (1763 - 1828)

In early spring, a friend went for a walk in the woods and, glancing down at the path, saw a snail. Picking it up, she held it gingerly in the palm of her hand and carried it back toward the studio where I was convalescing. She noticed some field violets on the edge of the lawn. Finding a trowel, she dug a few up, then planted them in a terra-cotta pot and placed the snail beneath their leaves. She brought the pot into the studio and put it by my bedside.

"I found a snail in the woods. I brought it back and it's right here beneath the violets."

"You did? Why did you bring it in?"

"I don't know. I thought you might enjoy it."

"Is it alive?"

She picked up the brown acorn-sized shell and looked at it. "I think it is."

Why, I wondered, would I enjoy a snail? What on earth would I do with it? I couldn't get out of bed to return it to the woods. It was not of much interest, and if it was alive, the responsibility - especially for a snail, something so uncalled for - was overwhelming.

My friend hugged me, said good-bye, and drove off.

At age thirty-four, on a brief trip to Europe, I was felled by a mysterious viral or bacterial pathogen, resulting in severe neurological symptoms. I had thought I was indestructible. But I wasn't. If anything did go wrong, I figured modern medicine would fix me. But it didn't. Medical specialists at several major clinics couldn't diagnose the infectious culprit. I was in and out of the hospital for months, and the complications were life threatening. An experimental drug that became available stabilized my condition, though it would be several grueling years to a partial recovery and a return to work. My doctors said the illness was behind me, and I wanted to believe them. I was ecstatic to have most of my life back.

But out of the blue came a series of insidious relapses, and once again, I was bedridden. Further, more sophisticated testing showed that the mitochondria in my cells no longer functioned correctly and there was damage to my autonomic nervous system; all functions not consciously directed, including heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion, had gone haywire. The drug that had previously helped now caused dangerous side effects; it would soon be removed from the market.

When the body is rendered useless, the mind still runs like a bloodhound along well-worn trails of neurons, tracking the echoing questions: the confused family of whys, whats, and whens and their impossibly distant kin how. The search is exhaustive; the answers, elusive. Sometimes my mind went blank and listless; at other times it was flooded with storms of thought, unspeakable sadness, and intolerable loss.

Given the ease with which health infuses life with meaning and purpose, it is shocking how swiftly illness steals away those certainties. It was all I could do to get through each moment, and each moment felt like an endless hour, yet days slipped silently past. Time unused and only endured still vanishes, as if time itself is starving, and each day is swallowed whole, leaving no crumbs, no memory, no trace at all.

I had been moved to a studio apartment where I could receive the care I needed. My own farmhouse, some fifty miles away, was closed up. I did not know if or when I'd ever make it home again. For now, my only way back was to close my eyes and remember. I could see the early spring there, the purple field violets - like those at my bedside - running rampant through the yard. And the fragrant small pink violets that I had planted in the little woodland garden to the north of my house - they, too, would be in bloom. Though not usually hardy this far north, somehow they survived. In my mind I could smell their sweetness.

Before my illness, my dog, Brandy, and I had often wandered the acres of forest that stretched beyond the house to a hidden, mountain-fed brook. The brook's song of weather and season followed us as we crisscrossed its channel over partially submerged boulders. On the trail home, in the boggiest of spots, perched on tiny islands of root and moss, I found diminutive wild white violets, their throats faintly striped with purple.

These field violets in the pot at my bedside were fresh and full of life, unlike the usual cut flowers brought by other friends. Those lasted just a few days, leaving murky, odoriferous vase water. In my twenties I had earned my living as a gardener, so I was glad to have this bit of garden right by my bed. I could even water the violets with my drinking glass.

But what about this snail? What would I do with it? As tiny as it was, it had been going about its day when it was picked up. What right did my friend and I have to disrupt its life? Though I couldn't imagine what kind of life a snail might lead.

I didn't remember ever having noticed any snails on my countless hikes in the woods. Perhaps, I thought, looking at the nondescript brown creature, it was precisely because they were so inconspicuous. For the rest of the day the snail stayed inside its shell, and I was too worn out from my friend's visit to give it another thought.

Table of Contents

Prologue 11

Part I The Violet-Pot Adventures

1 Field Violets 17

2 Discovery 23

3 Explorations 31

Part II A Green Kingdom

4 The Forest Floor 39

5 Life in a Microcosm 45

6 Time and Territory 49

Part III Juxtapositions

7 Thousands of Teeth 57

8 Telescopic Tentacles 63

9 Marvelous Spirals 71

10 Secret Recipes 77

Part IV The Cultural Life

11 Colonies of Hermits 85

12 Midnight Leap 91

13 A Snail's Thoughts 99

14 Deep Sleep 107

Part V Love and Mystery

15 Cryptic Life 115

16 Affairs of a Snail 119

17 Bereft 129

18 Offspring 133

Part VI Familiar Territory

19 Release 141

20 Winter Snail 147

21 Spring Rain 153

22 Night Stars 157

Epilogue 159

Acknowledgments 167

Appendix: Terraria 173

Selected Sources 175

Permissions 183

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“With warmth and intelligence, Bailey observes this little mollusk at her bedside. Readers will find her mental journey remarkable and her courage irresistible. I am very taken with this small book.” —Maxine Kumin

“If rapt attention is a kind of prayer, then this is a prayerful book. Bailey pays homage to splendors small and humble enough to fit inside a terrarium beside her sickbed.” —Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Private History of Awe

“Beautiful.” —Edward O. Wilson

“I love [The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating] with all my heart . . . It’s moving and beautiful . . . funny and sweet and wise and profound.” —Jane Hamilton

Customer Reviews

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Sound of a Wild Snail Eating 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 75 reviews.
SAHARATEA More than 1 year ago
"...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."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
AudreyCooper More than 1 year ago
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.
idajo2 More than 1 year ago
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!
juleecm1 More than 1 year ago
I couldn't imagine enjoying a book about observing a snail. How could I have been so dumb? It's a fascinating, lovely, delicate book about a woman's horrific health problems, and how the introduction of a little, forest snail into her life allowed her to participate in something other than her illness. Her inability to even get up led to a severely restricted existence, and by quietly watching this little snail, her horizons broadened and she felt as though she was participating in life again. And guess what? You CAN hear a snail eating, if only you are quiet enough and really listen. A wonderful reminder of the powers of quiet observance and healing. Marvelous book, can't recommend it highly enough.
Drora More than 1 year ago
Will never look at snails the same way again!!! A wonderful way to turn a terrible situation to a bearable one.
gmanpma More than 1 year ago
I usually read WWII history, but the title grabbed me. A great relaxing read. Read and enjoy.
KristyMcCaffrey More than 1 year ago
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.
AnnieBB More than 1 year ago
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.
Amy Christiansen More than 1 year ago
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.
porch_reader on LibraryThing 21 days ago
I read about this book on the blog ReadAllDay, and the topic intrigued me. A woman who is bedridden with a serious illness watches a snail living in a plant by her bedside. After seeing several good reviews on your threads, I picked it up at the library. Bailey has written a slow, gentle book. She writes only briefly about the illness that makes turning from one side to the other a chore. More time is spent on her observations of the snail who shares her days and nights, and her research about snails in general. The slow pace of the snail matches her energy levels and becomes the focus of her attention. The book made me count my blessing while also making me feel the need to slow down of my own accord so that I don't miss the sound of a wild snail eating.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing 21 days ago
Elisabeth Bailey was stricken with a mysterious, unnamed virus while traveling. The virus basically rendered her bedridden for years, with ups and downs, recoveries and relapses along the way. This book is the story of one of her bedridden years in which she was given a pet snail and spent much of her waking time observing it. You'll care about this snail more than you ever thought you would and you'll learn many interesting facts about snails in this book. For instance, did you know that when mating some snail species shoot love darts at each other? And that snails have thousands of teeth? And that snails can regrow parts of their shells if they are damaged? But this is more than a book about snails. It's also a book about the isolation often felt by sufferers of chronic illness and about how Elisabeth dealt with a solitary life. When her disease made it impossible for her to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time, impossible to physically hold up a book or concentrate on the story, she found great comfort in the snail slowly living its life by her side. The snail was there for her when her friends couldn't make the long trip out to see her.
mmignano11 on LibraryThing 21 days ago
"The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" is a delightful read. Bailey manages to be both whimsical and profound in this small book. During an illness that has the author fighting for her survival, a friend bestows the gift of life on the author by presenting her with a snail. By learning how the tiny mollusk eats, sleeps and moves, the reader takes the journey of recovery, both physical and emotional with Bailey.Using the snail as a metaphor becomes a perfectly sound literary device under Bailey's deft pen. The snail's slow-paced life reflects Bailey's own physicality, her need to slow down all processes to cater to the illness that is ravaging her. She is unable to stand upright, to walk, or to care for herself. The snail is self-sufficient, gliding through its daily offices and is in fact a hermaphrodite and as such is capable of producing its own offspring. How Bailey must long to care for herself to that extent. But rather than envy the snail, Bailey admires its simple mode of survival, using complex scientific processes in the most basic ways to survive.Providing the reader with snail trivia both entertaining and didactic, Bailey paints the picture of a season spent with a creature who helps her to understand that there are ways that each of us find to fill our place in the world, wherever it may be at that moment. The snail, in his terrarium and the author in her bed, provide the simplest of aid to each other, and ultimately, one of the most important, companionship.
perlle on LibraryThing 21 days ago
Part memoir, part nature writing it's a sweet book with a lot of insights into illness and life.
BlackSheepDances on LibraryThing 21 days ago
"...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. y 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....it wasn't that I had truly vanished; I was simply homebound, like a snail pulled into its shell. But being homebound in the human world is a sort of vanishing."What makes this memoir unique, besides her indomitable spirit, is that she doesn't push any sort of religious or spiritual agenda for her positive outlook. There is no implied message, which is often a feature of such an inspiring book. Her facts are based on solid research, and she doesn't waste words; her prose is clear and precise. Additionally, and this may be trivial, b
detailmuse on LibraryThing 21 days ago
How many books have you read with a Library of Congress classification of ¿Snails as pets¿??The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating -- my first :) -- is partly a memoir of 34-year-old Elisabeth Tova Bailey being flat-out bedridden during the first year of a chronic illness that would persist for decades. But it¿s mostly a gentle scientific exploration of the common land snail, which a friend plucks from the New England woods and places in a pot of violets at Bailey¿s bedside. It brings her comfort and immeasurable diversion, and the information about snails that she excerpts from science, literature and poetry bring the same to the reader.
quzy on LibraryThing 21 days ago
Is it a memoir or a beautiful piece of nature writing? It is both, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about a Neohelix albolabris, the common woodland snail, and encourage you to pick this book up and escape into a world you may never have known to exist...Elisabeth Tova Bailey found herself suffering from a debilitating unknown illness that left her with severe neurological symptoms and virtually bedridden all the time. As her illness progressed, and as she had to move out of her farmhouse and to a place where she could receive the care she needed, she felt herself more and more isolated from the outside world. One day a friend brought her a small pot of flowers and while walking through the woods spotted the perfect accessory to her gift- a small snail.As the snail quietly came to life, and the hours of Elisabeth's isolation grew, a certain curiosity took over Elisabeth and she began to research the genealogy & life of her snail... The snail became the perfect companion to the hours Elisabeth spent in her own flowerpot, and she found an amazing similarity to her own life and that of the snail..."The life of a snail is as full of tasty food, comfortable beds of sorts, and a mix of pleasant and not-so-pleasant adventures as that of anyone I know."The story itself is sprinkled with snail lore, poetry and ancient & current studies. It is a fascinating glimpse into nature that is simply & beautifully written. It is a quiet story, filled with wonder. The story is a slim 170 pages from start to epilogue, with beautiful soft pencil drawings by Kathy Bray, and could be easily finished in one sitting. But to really enjoy it, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating should be slowly sipped like a delicious elixir...Beautiful prose with a wonderful dash of nature writing that challenges us to slow down and observe the smaller world around us. In this wonderful observation of nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey weaves her story with that of the common woodland snail, to teach us that life is worthwhile no matter how large, or small, your shell is... this would make a wonderful gift for any nature lover, or for someone recovering from an illness.
ccayne on LibraryThing 21 days ago
This is a wonderful, strange, intimate book. The author describes her growing relationship with her only constant companion, a snail, during a long convalescence from a mysterious ailment. Along the way, we learn about her, snails and the country of illness. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter are wonderful as is the extensive bibliography.
BillPilgrim on LibraryThing 21 days ago
This is a short meditation on disease, being alone, and the power of even a small uncommuncative creature to give companionship and some measure of meaning to life. The author is suffering from an illness that causes her to have to lie flat all day long. For most of the day she is alone in a small apartment, although caregivers come to assist her, but we don't learn much about them or their role in her life. Her main focus is on a small woods snail which a friend brought in to her room in with a potted violet plants, both taken from the nearby woods. She observes the activities of the snail and describes them for us. Occasionally, she bemoans her situation and necessary removal from society. She presents some of her research into snails.It doesn't sound like much, but I greatly enjoyed the read. It is easily accomplished in a lazy afternoon.
bragan on LibraryThing 21 days ago
Author Elisabeth Tova Baily suffers from a debilitating illness, and during a period when she was bedridden a friend brought her a pot of wild violets and, for some reason, a snail. Bailey made a sort of pet out of the snail, observing it with attentive interest and finding in its slow, patient movements some inspiration for coping with her own condition. This slim volume, in which she relates her experiences with her snail and shares what she's learned about snails in general, is thoughtful, charmingly written, and surprisingly educational. I had no idea how much I didn't know about snails, but I came away convinced that they are remarkable, beautiful creatures. I kind of want to find some snails of my own to watch now.
JackieBlem on LibraryThing 21 days ago
This is a charming little book that is just as much about a human as it is about a snail. Bailey has a medical condition that renders her unable to sit up or move very much for long stretches of time (months. During one of those relapses, one of her caretakers cheerfully uprooted some violets from the woods outside the little house where she was staying and plopped a small snail under them and brought them in to cheer the invalid's bedside. Little did this person know that she started a love affair of a lifetime, while at the same time giving perspective, hope, and companionship to the frustrated and forlorn Bailey. Full of scientific detail (about snails) and psychological observations (about humans), this simple tale has endless layers and resonant insights that make it far more than the sum of its pages.
edwin.gleaves on LibraryThing 21 days ago
A remarkable little book about a little critter and its relationship to a highly sensitive woman. Reminiscent of Throreau, no less.
dk_phoenix on LibraryThing 21 days ago
I'm so, so grateful to whoever recommended this book. It's not the kind of thing I would typically pick up, but I'm very glad I did (and I've already loaned it out because I couldn't not share it with others). Briefly, the story is a memoir about the author's illness and isolation during her recovery, and the observations she makes on a wild snail that her caretaker brings in on a pot of plants. She watches the snail, bonds with it through her own slow-paced existence, and presents a multitude of fascinating facts about snails -- most of which she learned during her illness, while reading a tome about mollusks to better understand her slimy companion.Although short, the book is delightful, lovely, informative, and poignant. I also find myself fascinated by the complexity of something so easily taken for granted as snails! Have I ever considered the physiology and behavior of snails before? Absolutely not, until this book. And what truthful observations on the human condition and the pace of modern life.This book is not to be missed. Even if you don't normally read these sorts of things, this little volume is well worth your time.
tandah on LibraryThing 21 days ago
The narrator is struck down by a debilitating virus and following what appears to be s healthy active life.not only is she bed bound for an extended period, she is unable to care for herself and has to leave her rural property to a room in someone else's home, where she can be cared for.She has a lot of friends that visit, and one of them pots some wild violets and places a snail found in the same area as the violets on the pot.The narrator is so unwell she can do little else other than observe the snail. Along with meditation and reflection she uses her minimal energy to begin researching snails, and uses this research to supplement her observation of the snail's activities. Each chapter begins with a haiku, or a pithy observation about the snail's life from 18th century books. This book is one part memoir, one part naturalist, one part meditation. I like the reflective bits the most, as well as her seeming interaction with the snail - however, if the book were read very slowly, think it could all be savored equally.There is a reference to her being unwell for 20 years, and that she was struck down by the virus in her mid30's. My one disappointment with this book is that I would have liked to know more about the author's health and how things have ended up for her. This is a non fiction book that at times feels like fiction - I understand the author has written under a pseudonym (Elisabeth Tova Bailey) to protect her privacy.I'd recommend this book especially to people who are wanting to slow down.
LizPhoto on LibraryThing 21 days ago
I loved this book so much that I am going to buy a copy for myself. It made me cry because it was so beautiful and touching. I stopped a few times in the middle of reading to imagine myself watching "the snail" live it's life. " The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" has got me thinking about owning a pet snail but then I think about it and realize a snail deserve to be free just like me.