The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Felled by a mysterious debilitating illness, the naturalist Elizabeth Tova Bailey can not even raise her head.  She only has enough strength to observe the activity of a wild snail placed on her bedside table by a loving carer.  Watching the deliberate slow activity of her resilient terrestrial companion becomes both her meditation and her life source as her world narrows to the universe of illness. Written over the course of her recovery, this profound and lyrical book is as delicate and beautiful as a Faberge egg.

— Cheryl


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.

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.

Praise For…

"The author found solace--and good material--in watching a snail." --People magazine

"Though illness may rob us of vitality, sometimes it can also help bring us understanding---albeit in improbable disguises . . . Perhaps there's something to be said for moving at a snail's pace."

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9781565126060
ISBN-10: 1565126068
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: August 24th, 2010
Pages: 208
Language: English