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The Sound of A Wild Snail Eating

The Sound of A Wild Snail Eating

Book - 2010
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In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her 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 understanding of her own place in the world.

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

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 can illuminate our own human existence, while providing an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

Publisher: Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9781565126060
Characteristics: xiii, 190 p. : ill. ; 19 cm


From Library Staff

When Elisabeth becomes bed ridden with a mysterious illness, after a while she is able to notice the small things. She befriends a snail that rode in on a plant from a friend and it ends up becoming an important part of her recovery and sanity. You learn a lot about snails and a lot about how som... Read More »

A woman, confined to her bed, watches a snail on her night stand, living a life that mirrors the limitations of her own. What follows is an oddly compelling story of her discovery of companionship and beauty in the most unexpected of creatures.

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Sep 21, 2020

One of the pleasures I find as a volunteer shelver in the nonfiction section of the public library is the intriguing titles I run across. One such titlke was THE SOUND of a WILD SNAIL EATING.
I had never given much thought to snails other than to regard them as a minor slow-moving garden pest that I chose to ignore. That is, until I read Elisabeth Bailey’s account of her observations of a brown acorn-sized snail.
A parasite had rendered the author to become bedridden, unable to walk and even fatigued by sitting up and interacting with well-wishing friends. Some friends brought her cut flowers and one day a friend brought a pot of field violets—tiny white flowers—and a tiny nail. Ms. Bailey noticed that the first morning revealed that an envelope left by the violet flower pot had a small square hole. Later, she noticed that each morning another inroad had been made in her stationery, sometimes only a square hole, other times it was a track running several inches along the paper. Obviously, thought Elisabeth, the snail was hungry. Hoping to give the snail something more nutritious than stationery, she laid a withered flower blossom from the cut flower arrangement that was fading. When the snail began its nocturnal journey it found the blossom and slowly began to eat it. Bending her head closer, Elisabeth heard what she described as the sound of someone munching celery.
Thus begins the author’s and the reader’s journey of exploration into the life of snails. I highly recommend taking this journey along with the author.

Apr 18, 2020

came for the snails, stayed for the uplifting story.

ArapahoeMaryA Apr 13, 2020

Quiet, wise and meditative, this brief memoir is oddly comforting and surprisingly uplifting. Though this tiny book appears to be a quick read, it demands to be consumed at a snail’s pace.

Mar 08, 2020

Not exactly the most promising idea -- a bed-ridden woman contemplating a snail -- so I was surprised that I enjoyed the book, not to mention learning a little biology.

Feb 21, 2019

The author brings you into her unfortunately paralyzed world which leads her (and the reader) to heightened observations and discoveries. Very enjoyable and informative.

multcolib_susannel May 02, 2017

When a friend brings her a wild violet plant that also contains a snail, the bedridden author is fascinated by the its quiet habits.

Nov 23, 2016

Not only did I not ever pay attention to snails (well, not since childhood anyways), but I actually sort of abhorred them. Might be something lingering from a time when I was fortunate to have access to garden plots. I found this title referenced in and set out to read it shortly after finishing 'Unseen City,' and I'm pleased I did. Who knew gastropods could be so interesting! A short, easy read filled with lovely quotes, poem stanzas, and the author's observations and experiences.

Oct 21, 2016

I appreciated the slow pace feeling this book gave me. It makes you stop and think about the time it takes to observe all the details of something like a snail.

Oct 21, 2016

I love reading books that teach me something new, and this "lovely little book" did that for me. A memoir of illness with an unlikely companion that satisfies yet leaves me wanting more. I hope Bailey continues to write - I want to continue reading her work!

Jul 18, 2016

This was a lovely little book that made me look more closely at the snails that cross my path when I was out hiking with my dog. There were many details about her snail and its lifestyle, but I would have liked to hear more about her time lying in bed and managing her physical limitations.

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Oct 21, 2016

Librarydog thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


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ArapahoeMaryA Apr 13, 2020

Given the ease with which health infuses life with meaning and purpose, it is shocking how swiftly illness steals away those certainties…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.

Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail....the snail kept my spirit from evaporating.

Survival often depends on a specific focus: A relationship, a belief, or a hope balanced on the edge of possibility.


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