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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

ratings:
4/5 (94 ratings)
Length:
131 pages
1 hour
Publisher:
Released:
Aug 24, 2010
ISBN:
9781616200244
Format:
Book

Description

Winner of the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
Winner of the John Burroughs Medal
Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award in Natural History Literature
 
“Brilliant.” —The New York Review of Books


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:
Released:
Aug 24, 2010
ISBN:
9781616200244
Format:
Book

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.


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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.

Part 1

THE VIOLET-POT ADVENTURES

Try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.

—RAINER MARIA RILKE, 1903,

from Letters to a Young Poet, 1927

1. FIELD VIOLETS

at my feet

when 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

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What people think about The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

4.2
94 ratings / 67 Reviews
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  • (5/5)
    I had heard about this book a few times, and finally on a whim I picked it up at Barnes & Noble. Aesthetically from the cover, the size, and the title, I was already sold. I couldn't wait to read it, so when my book club's category for October was "books on a subject you'd like to learn about" I jumped at the opportunity to read it. I. Ate. This. Up. It was so good, I couldn't put it down--but not in a fast-pace thriller type of way. Instead I was so thoroughly enamored with her observations of this snail and so surprised that I could be so enamored that kept me reading. Most small creepy-crawlies disgust me, particularly ones that are slimy to boot, so the fact that I am now in love with snails has to be a good recommendation for this book.It wasn't just the educational content of the book--I certainly learned a lot about Mollusca--but rather the meditative, meandering atmosphere of the telling that made me feel like reading this slowed my heartbeat and eased my general anxiety. Somehow, Elisabeth Tova Bailey infused the nature of the snail into her storytelling. I've honestly added this book to my list of self-care options. After all, it's so short as a whole and each chapter is bite-sized that it would make for a quick relaxer. In addition to somehow instilling the snails slow-paced lifestyle into these pages, Elisabeth Tova Bailey also expertly weaved in the academic learning she pursued about the snail and the updates on her own life and illness as she watched the snail live its life. It came to resemble the natural and effortless flow of her snail's shell whorls.
  • (4/5)
    So this isn't my usual type of book. Nothing much happens; it's a quiet, reflective, almost meditative book, written by a near-invalid who spends a significant portion of a bed-ridden year musing on the life and nature of the wild snail someone has brought to live in a terrarium by her bedside. The surprising thing to me is that I was actually fascinated, and didn't find it at all a chore to read -- it was peaceful, and relaxing, almost as though I were taking a long nature walk at, well, at a snail's pace. I'm not sure I'd choose to read another book of this sort for awhile, but this time, it was a marvelous antidote to the stresses of a hurried and harried lifestyle.
  • (4/5)
    Lovely book. Decimated by illness, the author becomes fascinated by snails after a friend brought one in to her with a pot of violets. That fascination may well be what saved her from losing her mind when forced to be bedridden for an excrutiatingly long time. As always, I find, nature soothes and heals the spirit.
  • (5/5)
    Beautiful meditation on life.
  • (3/5)
    The title is of course is what catches your eye, but I thought there might be some profound thoughts to read in a book about a common and often overlooked member of the animal kingdom. I was right.
  • (4/5)
    If you have naturalist leanings you will enjoy this book. If you have never read about snails in any detail and like to learn new things about creatures often assumed to be uninteresting, then you will also enjoy this book. There is a universe coiled within the shell of a snail.
  • (5/5)
    We used to have a pair of African dwarf frogs on the counter in the kitchen. I spent countless hours watching them drift up and down in their aquatic home. I worried when the heavier frog seemed to be getting all of the food I put in the tank. (I had reason to worry, as it turned out, since Mossy ended up starving to death.) Even down to one frog, I was mesmerized by the tiny creature. And I was truly sad when Senor Flipper followed his fellow frog to the great aquarium in the sky. I loved watching the frogs just go about their daily business. So perhaps it isn't unusual that I found Elisabeth Tova Bailey's book about the wild snail she watched from her bedside as she was ill and bedridden to be a beautiful, completely engrossing, and meditative read.After a trip abroad, Bailey contracted a terrible illness that almost killed her. In fact, it kept her bedridden for more than a decade. In that time, she had to learn to live the very constrained life she was capable of, even as she was robbed of mobility, strength, and everything she understood to be who she was. When a friend, knowing how much she missed the outdoors, brings a tiny wild snail and a small violet plant into Bailey's room, she can't have predicted the outcome. Bailey is fascinated by the snail, watching the small mollusc as it explores its new home, learning about the tiny creature in scientific terms, and uncovering other authors and poets who have, in their turn, been intrigued by and written about snails.The book is a short one, easily read but it is a true gem for all its brevity, combining the inner life of a thoughtful and careful writer with the simple but elegant outer life of a snail. It is gorgeous, introspective, and quiet. It's filled with fascinating information and lovely passages. It is sustaining in the way that the best writing is and I hope that people who might not think to look at the beauty of a snail's life will in fact find their way to this book.
  • (5/5)
    Deeply moving and beautifully written.
  • (5/5)
    This is a beautifully written memoir of a woman who contracts a mysterious but debilitating illness that leaves her bedridden for over a year. A friend brings a snail from the forest and places it on a flowerpot on her windowsill. She becomes attached to the snail, her constant companion during those long hours spent alone in her bed. The author describes her insights into the snail's psychology and becomes interested enough to read about snails in great depth. Rather than being a depressing recollection of a year in bed with little hope of recovery, this story is a lovely description of her love of nature and the wonders of living creatures as simple as a snail.
  • (5/5)
    A delightful story of a handicapped woman's observations of a snail's daily activities. Charming.
  • (5/5)
    A tiny gem of a book. Like the snail shell itself, it is small, unassuming, and easy to overlook. But once you take the time to notice it, you can't believe how simply lovely and well constructed it is. Recommended for every reader.
  • (4/5)
    I loved this short little book! Some people would assume that a book about a snail would basically be a book about nothing. I found this a beautiful and engaging tale that demonstrates the wonder of our natural world.When Elizabeth Bailey contracts a life-threatening illness that leaves her bedridden, a friend brings her a land snail in a potted violet to keep her company. Over the course of many months, Bailey observes the minutia of the snail's life. It is her one connection to the outside, living world beyond her caregivers.I tend to like books about nature and there is a lot to enjoy about this book. The information about land snails is given in an engaging way, and the author does not dwell on her illness. This book is all about the snail! Even if you think you will not like a book about a slimy garden pest, you should give this one a try.
  • (5/5)
    Dear, dear gastropod...how was I to know that you are the epitome of elegance and strength of character?Bailey develops a mysterious illness at the end of a trip to the Swiss Alps. While convalescing on her farm in Maine, she is trying to adjust to the sudden loss of control in her life. Practically incapacitated, and depending on the assistance of a caregiver and irregular visits from friends, she soon succumbs to depression and the monotony of the sick bed. A friend decides to bring nature to her by planting wild violets in a pot, along with a little woodland snail that she happens to find in the woods, and placing them by her bedside. What follows is a close observation of this little creature's habits and well...personality! No longer lonely, Bailey looks forward to each new day, and develops a voracious appetite for more snail research. The snail's determination, strength, and even romantic sensibilities are examples that are emulable. I could list all the great things that make snails so cool, but then you wouldn't read the book, right? Ugh! You're a sly one...Although Bailey attributed all of the snail's intricate qualities to the theory of Evolution, her observations and case notes pointed me in the opposite direction. I was bowled over by it's intelligent design, and the intelligent Creator behind it. Nothing was missed, from the way a snail ensures it's survival during winter to it's courtship rituals. Snails are deep! So true are the words found at Romans 1:20 "...For His invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable..."If you get a chance to read this, please do. I'm sure you'll relate to both the snail and the author, especially if you're an introvert, or find that you can't do what you used to do because of declining health. Take a lesson from the gastropod, and keep sliming ever forward!Climb Mount FujiO snailbut slowly, slowly—Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)
  • (4/5)
    Quick light read. I was glad the author let the snail's story speak for itself, allowing the reader to have their own self awareness moments. I was drawn into the story upon reading the first page. I admit to a few paragraphs of boredom but they were easy enough to get through being such a small book. From first hand experience I know it is possible to get attached to a snail. Having in the past kept aquariums I have also kept snails, the great big ones that are purchased. They really are quite fascinating to watch. I didn't find any new insights but this story did serve as a good reminder of what we take for granted and what is truly important in life.
  • (3/5)
    Survival often depends on a specific focus: a relationship, a belief, or a hope balanced on the edge of possibility. Or something more ephemeral: the way the sun passes through the hard, seemingly impenetrable glass of a window and warms the blanket, or how the wind, invisible but for its wake, is so loud one can hear it through the insulated walls of a house.In this short, contemplative memoir, Elisabeth Tova Bailey describes her experience convalescing after being struck by an autoimmune disease. Bedridden, unable to stand or walk, her days were spent largely inside her head. A tiny snail, which came into her room on a potted plant, became both a companion and a source of intellectual stimulation. Fascinated by the snail's daily routine, Bailey read up on the anatomy and physiology of the snail and passed insight along to her readers on everything from the composition of the snail's shell and mucus to mating rituals.The science is interesting enough, but the real point of this memoir is how the snail sustains Bailey by giving her a reason to face every day. She experiments with the snail's food and habitat, worries when the snail is out of sight, and marvels at the miracle of life represented by a clutch of eggs. Her observations often lead to conclusions about human society. Some of these felt contrived, others were more meaningful, but on the whole I was impressed by the inner strength required to persevere through a lengthy and debilitating illness.
  • (5/5)
    Lovely read. The author has an unknown viral illness that renders her suddenly fatigued and bedridden. A friend brings her a woodland violet, dug up in her yard, complete with a snail. Unable to do anything for herself, she watches the snail, eventually having it moved into a terrarium, where she notes the changes in it's behavior with the seasons. Gorgeous pen & ink drawings, with poetry beginning each chapter.
  • (3/5)
    I was a little disappointed to learn more about snails than I was in the intimate relationship between creature and author. I felt my assumptions about what I was to read had been misled. This wiould have been just as good in a book of short stories or essays perhaps with some more personalthoughts and less scientific data.
  • (5/5)
    Being from Maine myself, I always love to read books by Maine authors, and this one is a gem.Elisabeth Bailey was struck down by a mysterious illness while travelling in the Alps. Doctors were unable to explain what was happening to her, although they did discover a change to her mitochondrial function. Lying in bed, too weak to even hold a book, Elisabeth became fascinated with the daily trials and tribulations of a garden snail that a friend had brought in on a violet plant. Over time, Elisabeth became quite an expert on snails, and she shares fascinating facts, discoveries, and observations. Equally compelling are her insights on life at snail-pace, both her own and her companion's. The result is a charming and informative little book that I would recommend to anyone looking for something quiet and contemplative.
  • (4/5)
    This little book was actually quite interesting. I learned a WHOLE lot about snails -- who knew?! But the narrative is really a contemplation of life, in a microcosm. The author's illness (she was basically bedridden for most of 20 years) placed her in a position of observation by default. She literally could not do much more than watch the snail as it went about its daily routines. The writing itself is lovely and descriptive. I never would have picked this up on my own -- thank goodness for book-club friends' recommendations!
  • (4/5)
    Clear, beautiful, easy to understand nature writing. Gave me a new appreciation of the humble gastropod. A friend brings the bedridden author a pot of violets with a snail under one leaf and the author spends one year studying her miniature companion, observing and reading all she could on her little friend. After the creature is moved to a terrarium with a habitat similar to its woodsy home, the author can watch the snail's habits and life cycle. I learned its anatomy, that it cannot hear, how it can protect itself in several ways, how it eats--with rows of file-like "teeth" called radulae, how it mates and gives birth to its offspring. It is intelligent and has a certain amount of memory. It hibernates in the winter and if conditions are unfavorable it can go into a type of dormancy called estivation where it attaches itself to a safe place and seals up its opening with mucus. As she begins to slowly recover, the author finally releases the original snail and the last of its offspring into the wild. As she wrote to her doctor: "I could never have guessed what would get me through the past year--a woodland snail and its offspring. I honestly don't think I would have made it otherwise. Watching another creature go about its life ... somehow gave me, the watcher, purpose too. If life mattered to the snail and the snail mattered to me, it meant something in my life mattered, so I kept on ..."
  • (5/5)
    The title caught my eye and when I read the reviews, I decided I might like this. The story is about a woman who is nearly completely incapacitated with a very serious illness. A friend brings her a potted violet and picks up a snail to put in the pot. The patient watches the snail and learns about it. It doesn't sound like much of a story, but it is really fascinating and I learned a lot about snails.
  • (5/5)
    Every once in awhile, a book comes along that is so profound in every aspect, that shouting about it seems obscene. Such a tome is THE SOUND of a WILD SNAIL EATING. It has been sitting on my NOOK for almost a year, and when a fellow 75er wrote glowingly about it last week, I went to take another look.I figured I'd read a few pages to see if it was worth moving it up in the TBR queue. I started reading it in bed the other night (I hardly ever read in bed), and turned out the light 2 hours later, having finished one of the most beautiful stories I'd read in a long time.The story is not complicated, but since it deals with life and all it's ups and downs, the simplicity of the story is deceiving. The author, a vibrant outdoorsy young woman is stricken with a disastrous microbacterial disease while visiting Europe. She manages to return home just before becoming almost completely parazlyzed, and spends the next several years in varying degrees of immobilized existence. She can't stand for longer than a few seconds, she has periods where she can't move a muscle, not because she's in pain, but because her neurological system is totally out of whack. She is completely dependent on others for her daily needs.While she is housebound in a very sterile white room, where she cannot even see out a window, a friend brings her a potted wood violet, dug from her own yard, and with it, a common land snail to live in this tiny ecosystem on the table near her bed.Day after day, as she watches the snail slowly make its way through life, at about the same pace she seems to be living, she becomes fascinated with everything about the snail. She sends for books about snails and immerses herself in how it moves, how it eats, when it sleeps, how it procreates (snails are hermaphrodites). There's a lot of science packed into the 125 pages, but she manages to present it in a layman's prose that makes it not only understandable, but elegant. In addition, Bailey starts each short chapter with a quote about time and/or snails. For example, "The velocity of the ill however, is like that of the snail."....Emily Dickson. After all, watching and listening to snails is an exercise of time. Bailey says.... Then absorbed in snail watching, I'd find that time had flown by unnoticed....The mountain of things I felt I needed to do reached the moon, yet there was little I could do about anything, and time continued to drag me along its path. We are all hostages of time. We each have the same number of minutes and hours to live within a day, yet to me it didn't feel equally doled out. My illness brought me such an abundance of time, that time was nearly all I had...it was perplexing how in losing health I had gained something so coveted but to so little purpose. p. 31. Watching the snail gives her courage. Learning about the snail's biology gives her insight into her own humanity. The story gives us all a chance to step back, and like the snail, smell the world around us, take things one small slimey step at a time, and offer thanks for the wonders of what we are given.A solid sweet beautiful book. It will be one to return to periodically, a lovely gift for a shut in (perhaps with a snail garden attached!) or an able bodied person who would relish an excuse to stop the world for just a short time. I'm so glad I received that nudge to go dig it from the Nook shelves. It certainly makes me wonder what other gems are buried in those piles, both physical and electronic.
  • (3/5)
    Some beautiful prose. I love her lingering attention to the small. Unfortunately, the book got quite slow--not enough inner transformation or at least reflection for my tastes.
  • (4/5)
    I accidentally read this. Downloaded a sample to my Kindle> liked it> bought the book to read later but just wanted to read a few more pages> read it all.

    This is a quiet, intimate book about a woman and her land snail. The youthful author contracts some unknown and completely debilitating virus while vacationing abroad. This virus changes her body permanently. One day she is brimming with joyeux de vivre and the next day she is bedridden, betrayed by her body and literally without the ability to sit up. She is physically and mentally isolated by her condition. Enter a small land snail, brought to her in a pot of violets, gifted to her by a friend.

    The land snail becomes her connection to the living world. They live at the same pace. Through quiet observation, she learns much about her molluscan friend. Her own observations are enhanced by bouquets of snail science and lore from naturalists, writers and poets. The book is fascinating.

    There is a lot of gratitude-for-small-things in this book. There are things that are important to our spirits that are drowned out by things that shout at us in our fast paced lives.

  • (5/5)
    As astonishing as it may sound, reading about seriously ill woman finding companionship with a wild snail who lives next to her sick bed is an experience both profound and moving. It is a meditation on life with the microcosm of a gastropod's life serving as the symbol for the majesty, mystery, tenacity and downright lushness of existence itself. A slim volume which is far greater than the number of its pages, it's a book I will no doubt read again. In truth, I became surprisingly attached to the little snail.
  • (2/5)
    Occasionally interesting bits about snails and a nice idea, but trite overall.
  • (4/5)
    49. [The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating] [[Elisabeth Tova Bailey]] ****On a visit to Europe the author was struck down by a mysterious and hugely debilitating disease for which her doctors were unable to find a cure. Completely confined to bed and immobilised to the extent that even turning from one side to another represents the major effort of her day, she is surprised when a friend brings her a pot of violets which contains a small snail. Initially daunted by the thought of the responsibility of caring for something even as small as a snail, she soon finds that having the snail as a companion gives her a focus and interest in her otherwise monotonous life. Her inability to do anything else means that she has the time to study the minutiae of her snail's existence. Her life becomes bound up in the snail to the extent that when it apparently disappears from the terrarium that has been created for it, she realises that she is 'almost more attached to the snail than she is to her own tenuous life'.This is a very short, beautifully written book providing an insight into the life of an animal that can be seen every day but to which few people pay any attention, but which has an interesting an individual story when viewed in this way. I've got a degree in zoology so I'm interested in animals of all types, but rarely read this type of natural history book preferring a more scientific approach, but even so I really enjoyed this book. I can't say that I'd ever been particularly keen on snails, seeing them mainly as things that ate my hostas, but this book has made me look at them very differently. I don't think that I will look at snails in the same way again.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    Pleasant light read, but for some reason didn't grab me. I guess I was expecting some sort of larger payoff than the book delivered. Will encourage many to keep a snail or an insect in a terrarium though and learn to watch more closely.
  • (5/5)
    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.