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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  2,874 ratings  ·  760 reviews
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 sens
Hardcover, 170 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Algonquin Books
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A Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from ... by Aldo LeopoldWalden by Henry David ThoreauA Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonPilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie DillardSilent Spring by Rachel Carson
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Community Reviews

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Elisabeth Tova Bailey was 34 when she was struck with a mysterious, flu-like illness while traveling in Switzerland. Upon her return home, the flu symptoms subsided, but her health did not return. She found herself so weak and dizzy she was barely able to sit up, let alone stand or care for herself, and her doctors had no idea why.

Bailey's life changed radically at that point, shrinking to a single room almost entirely cut off from the outside world. On impulse, a friend brought her a pot of wil
Jeniffer Almonte
This is a book about a creature that I find icky, ugly, weird and (literally) slimey. Still, I have rarely been as fascinated or entertained as I was when reading this wonderful account of a year spent observing a wild snail.

Elizabeth Tova Bailey was transformed, almost overnight, from a healthy, active person to one that lived her life in bed. Her affliction was a mysterious illness that made her weak to the point of near-paralysis. It was impossible to sit up or read and even listening to mus
Suzanne (Chick with Books) Yester
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
Nov 19, 2011 Sue rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sue by: John Speer
I allowed myself a long and slow read for this small memoir of one year during a woman's lengthy, 20 year convalescence from an unknown virus. That year was made special by the presence of a snail brought in from the woods outside by a visitor. The author, Elisabeth Tova Bailey, was unable to live in her own home at that time, was feeling alienated from life, her surroundings, and felt isolated. This small creature led her to a year of observation, learning, fostering, and companionship. I learn ...more
Mar 24, 2012 Almeta rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Almeta by: Artfullyoung1
I have often stated that I need to get my larnin’ in disguise; I need to be tricked into it.

Because of this, I have a fondness for biology books like Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body and The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, which do not read like textbooks; in which the author does not talk condescendingly and chapters read like an intriguing story book, with pictures.

I’m pretty sure that author:Elisabeth Tova Bailey never intended to be
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 a
Dear, dear 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
I'm just enthralled, and suggest everyone go to to learn more about the author and this slim volume of pure inspiration. Thanks to Heather Sturm for bringing this to the attention of our book club--I plan to buy my own copy very soon.

This observation states my views most clearly:

"Like Seabiscuit's Laura Hillenbrand, this author is at the house-bound, often bed-bound extreme of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (brain stem inflammation), a condition similar to Lyme mockingly l
Having a favorite animal is very childish, isn't it? When I was a kid I was nicknamed Turtle because of how slow I ran. My dad, who coached me in softball, used to say that I was the only one who could hit it over the fence and still get a triple. I owned that nickname and learned to draw both realistic and cartoon turtles and often received turtle items as gifts. Even my senior year in high school, my first boyfriend made me a metal cast turtle that I still have.

There are kids in my second gra
A great book for someone who is chronically ill or wants a unique perspective on what it's like. I really identified with the main character in this book. As someone who is frequently stuck in bed with a chronic illness, I found a lot of not only similar sentiments in the narrator but also inspiring thoughts.

I never thought that I would enjoy a book about snails so much, and, to be perfectly honest, I think I took one star off because I got bored with the snail topic after awhile.
Susan Ideus
"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."

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating records a year in the life of author Elisabeth Tova Bailey—a year in which she struggled for her survi
"...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,
♥ Marlene♥
Loved loved it.

First I have to tell you something about myself. I am known as the snail saviour. I am always telling everybody when they are visiting and tred in my garden, beware of my snails.

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They are scared when they accidently do step on one because they know i will get my whip out!

A few weeks ago I removed most of the snails I could find in my back garden to my front garden, because I knew my dad and brother would not notice if they'd walk on my snails, while they were installi
Diane Barnes
I picked up this book because it seemed to be a quick read (190 pages) while I was waiting for another download for a library book to be available. Wow! What a surprise. Who knew snails could be so facinating? The author is a victim of a strange disease that keeps her bedridden. A friend brought her a pot of violets she had dug up in the woods, and there just happened to be a snail in residence. She becomes fascinated with his movements and motives and begins her research. They are intelligent l ...more
Waverly Fitzgerald
The most soothing book I’ve ever read. It moves at a snail’s pace. Small in size, lyrical in language, precise in observation, delicate in articulation.

The author, Elizabeth Tova Bailey, is bedridden due to a mysterious auto-immune disease. A friend bringers her a flowerpot containing a wild violet from the nearby woods, and along with the plant, a snail. Bailey watches the snail and becomes fascinated by its journeys. Up and down the pot to sip the water that collects in the saucer. She figures
One of the many fun things about goodreads is being inspired to leave my reading comfort zone. This is usually a win-win proposition. When I end up liking the book, I feel excited that I expanded my horizons. When I end up hating the book, I get to write a snarky review. Worst case scenario, I feel kind of neutral or ambivalent about the book in which case I may or may not finish it but at least I can say I tried.

“The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating” fell into the latter category. Animals are reall
A short, uplifting memoir, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is the story of Elisabeth Tova Bailey's illness and recovery. A healthy, active woman, she is quite suddenly struck down by a mystery illness, which proves difficult to diagnose and treat. One day, she is brought a pot of violets as a gift by a friend, and inside the pot is a snail. As she is bedridden, the snail becomes a kind of pet, as she observes its daily movements, becomes accustomed to its habits, and begins to feel emotionally ...more
The writing and the premise of this book were great but the execution left a lot to be desired. I sympathized with the author’s horrible debilitating condition and felt the book offered a lot of insight about disability. However, the snail facts felt choppy and disconnected and I wish they had been incorporated into the narrative a bit better. The constant personification of the snail made me feel like the author kind of didn’t understand the animal very well. For instance, constantly feeling ba ...more
"Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail....the snail kept my spirit from evaporating."

Having an isolating and debilitating illness myself this book struck a very personal chord. The author Bailey contracts what is later revealed to be tick-borne encephalitis and CFS and while she is bedridden she becomes fascinated with her "pet" snail. The majority of the book is made up of snail facts, from their anatomy to behaviors and everything in bet
Perhaps one of the best outcomes of getting my kindle is that I have branched out in my reading choices. Typically, I stick within the genres of murder mystery or thriller/suspense. If I go to a bookstore, I make a beeline for those sections, and barely glance at any others. However, since getting this device (thanks, Honey!), I have perused the Amazon daily deals religiously each morning, and bought several titles that are well outside the norm for me.

As a result, this book. Quaint, informative
Anderson's Bookshops
Gail Wetta said: "This slender volume is packed with peacefulness--I truly felt myself relaxing as I read it--perhaps slowing to a snail's pace? The story centers around a woman confined to bed rest because of an odd neurological illness. She receives a woodland snail as an unlikely companion and so begins a tale of natural history and human nature. Having read my share of dry biological articles and texts in college, this was a rare treat. Ms. Bailey provides "tons" of scientific info on these ...more
I relate to the author's angst in craving daily movements. Not to the same extent, nor for as much time...but I definitely recognized those feelings of wanting simple physical movements and not being able to do them. I was keenly aware of what that feels like.

Her snail may not like fresh plants, but my garden slugs sure do. They can eat my entire fresh garden in a night if they feel like it.

I kept waiting for the doctors to tell her that the cure for her mysterious disease was escargot, and the
Hannah Jane
Elisabeth Tova Bailey has a mysterious illness that lasts for many years. At one point during this illness she is confined to her bed. She can only sit up or hold a book for minutes at a time. She has been removed from her beloved farmhouse to a condo in the city so that she can be cared for around the clock. One day a friend brings Elisabeth a snail that is nestled in a pot of violets. This is the story of how a snail ferries one woman through countless hours of suffering into a place of wonder ...more
This book was a surprise. I only picked it up so I could query and agent and say "By the way, I read a book you repped"-- and I was delighted with the peculiar blend of illness memoir and scientific rapture on mollusks. It's a bit of a meandering narrative, but there were some gems of insight and I enjoyed learning more about snails.

It made me want to get a pet snail.

The book is a very short read, and it had a several nice lines that I could relate to from my own experience on bedrest with an un
my sister gave me this small book for Christmas 2013. Once I started, I could not put it down. Fortunately, it is not a long book so did not take very long to read.

Having dealt with MS for nearly 15 years now, this book was especially meaningful and poignant.

While Ms. Bailey was bed-bound for an extended period of time from a mysterious and debilitating illness, a friend stopped to visit her rural home, and brought her an unlikely creature for a gift.

The book is not only a journal of her day

This is such an interesting and original book. It is also very informative about snails!

I've never given much thought to snails before, they're just sort of 'there'. But this book has made me view them in a whole new light.

The second half of the book becomes more factual, providing lots of snail information. But the first half of the book is quite moving at times, offering a different perspective on life - especially if you've never suffered any serious illness.

Kate Ressman
Review: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Recommended for: People who liked The Butterfly and the Diving Bell or Salt

I picked up this quiet little book at the library because I could not pass up the title. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating just intrigued me the way The Elegance of the Hedgehog did. On top of that it was a short book, not even 200 pages.

Bailey's voice is what comes through most. This is a true story. It's more than just information about snails. It's about t
Unique, poignant, absorbing, and touching. Never knew I would care about, and love to learn so much about snails, and wouldn't have believed such a delightful memoir could be written with a little land snail as the main focus. Little book packed with life-lessons we could all use, taught by a snail and its observer - easily read in a few hours.
incredible! so simply written for something so thoroughly researched. i was enthralled by the descriptions of seemingly mundane observations and fascinated by the biology. finding books like this is like finding treasure
This was a pleasant little book. The author, convalescing from a long and debilitating illness, acquires a pet snail. Observing the snail is one of the few activities she can actually do without suffering, so she gets to know her little buddy and as she recovers, learns more about snails.

This might sound super boring, but the author does a good job of poetically tying the snail's life to her own and to the big picture of evolution and life on earth. I learned some interesting things about snail
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Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s essays and short stories have been published in The Missouri Review, Northwest Review, and the Sycamore Review. She has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and a Notable Essay Listing in Best American Essays. She lives in Maine.
More about Elisabeth Tova Bailey...

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“Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail....the snail kept my spirit from evaporating.” 14 likes
“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” 9 likes
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