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Summary and book reviews of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

A True Story

by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
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  • Published:
    Aug 2010, 208 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

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About this Book

Book Summary

In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail.

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world.

Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal.

Told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Elisabeth Tova Bailey isn't the first to turn illness toward inspiration; however, I'm fairly certain that she may be the first to incorporate the companionship of a snail to do so. While bookstore shelves are teeming with shattering memoirs and incredible life-changing events, a unique and quiet calm surrounds The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating that gently lifts Bailey's story a bit above the rest.   (Reviewed by Megan Shaffer).

Full Review Members Only (518 words).

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

A charming, delicate meditation on the meaning of life.

Library Journal

A small, short book filled with an enormous amount of natural history and science about snails; also, an acknowledgment of an individual's determination to recover and regain life with humor and insight. Highly recommended.

Author Blurb Jane Hamilton
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.

Author Blurb Maxine Kumin, author and United States Poet Laureate
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.

Reader Reviews
Louise Jolly

An Unusual Memoir!!
Elisabeth Tova Bailey is bedridden with a mysterious disease that has left her paralyzed but she finds meaning in her life through observing a small woodland snail!! The snail served as her entertainment, her connection to a world beyond her own ...   Read More

Cloggie Downunder

slow down and see the snails
Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s latest work, “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating” has a title that naturally intrigues. Is this book really about snails? And if so, how interesting or exciting can that be? Is reading this book going to be like watching paint ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Haiku

at my feet
when did you get here?
snail
- Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)

It's no coincidence that Elisabeth Tova Bailey chose Kobayashi Issa as one of several selected poets to gently ease us into the passages of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. The haiku poet's simplicity and grace complement Elisabeth Tova Bailey's quiet observations as she interprets the larger natural world through that of her tiny snail. Sometimes less is so much more, and like the mighty message of this story's small snail, haiku is a fitting medium to deepen its meaning. 

Most Western school-children learn that haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that uses a three-lined format of 5-7-5 syllables. This is actually wrong on a number...

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