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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  11,085 ratings  ·  2,262 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, 208 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Algonquin Books (first published August 15th 2010)
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 ·  11,085 ratings  ·  2,262 reviews

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Jan 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
I became aware somewhere in the middle of this book that I was saying, out loud, “geez”, over and over again. If it wasn’t an astounding thing I had never heard before about snails, it was reading what this poor woman had to go through with her viral, neurological illness (an acquired mitochondrial/metabolic disease) that nearly killed her.

I bet you didn’t know that:
• Snails cannot hear and they can barely see (they can make out light and dark); they have an acute sense of smell and also do pre
Elyse  Walters
Solace in a snail....

I read this book - and I write this review in honor of Dov Zeller- who shares the same disease as Elizabeth Tova Bailey which often keeps him bedridden.

"Slime is the sticky essence of a gastropod's soul, the medium for everything in its
life: locomotion, defense, healing, courting, mating, and egg protection. Nearly 1/3
at my snails daily energy went into slime production. And rather than making a single batch of "all-purpose" slime, my snail had a species-specific recipe f
♥ 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 tread in my garden, beware of my snails.

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 from 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 installing a new f
Oct 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I never thought reading a book about a snail could be such a rewarding experience. Who knew so many people had written poems about snails?
Who knew that snails have a life and intelligence? I do now. I know a lot about snails that I never knew before. Until this wonderful book came my way, I thought the only good snail was a dead one.

Come on, you know you think the same thing! Read this book, it may change your mind.

Elisabeth Tova Bailey's story about a garden snail, picked up in the woods one da
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I've had this on my radar for a while thanks to some of my nature writing loving friends, but this felt like the perfect time to read it. While the author is bedbound with a mysterious illness, she shares her small life with a wild snail. Through the course of the year she observes it closely, and later on incorporates research from translated poetry, early and contemporary science.

It's very much about dealing with circumstances that make life small, the beauty of small things, and so much more
May 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Lara Maynard
What a lovely book. No wonder it has fans. And it spoke to me very personally.

The author fell ill after a mysterious infection on a trip to Europe, leaving her housebound with chronic illness. I, too, was left with chronic illness by a viral infection, and I deeply empathize with the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social implications of being chronically ill, including the isolation factor. More than that, I've had a lifelong love of bugs and little crawly, creepy creatures, with sn
Dov Zeller
The other day I was telling a sick friend about this book and I told her the author has an illness that sounds very much like ours and my friend said, 'no wonder she can hear the snails eating!' Because some people with this illness have chronic migraine symptoms including horrific sound sensitivity (which I sometimes call bionic hearing.)

As it turns out, the author does have the same illness as I do. The poorly named Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. As Laura Hillenbrand, author of sea biscuit says, “T
Elisabeth Tova Bailey is the strongest and finest person/author I have yet to encounter. This, her memoir, is also an educational document on the snail. Elisabeth suffers from an extremely debilitating condition keeping her in bed at all times. Enter the snail. I think it got into her room on the clothes of a visitor. The snail made its home in a flower pot containing violets. And then Elisabeth began to watch and learn. The snail slept with her during the day and kept her company while she suff ...more
Jan 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you need to slow down.
(Don't we all?)

If you want to marvel at the little wonders of the natural world.
(Slime and tenatacles that taste and love darts, no lie.)

If you cherish moments of peace strewn among the madness of a work day.
(Five minutes on the metro is enough.)

My own brain is chugging along too slowly to properly explain why you should read this tale of a bed-bound woman and her foray into the world of snails. All I know is that every time I picked up this book, it is exactly what I w
Nov 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Smoothly written, mildly interesting meditation on invalidism.
Mysteriously and drastically ill, the author observes the behavior of a snail a friend has left in some flowers by her bedside.

Then, I must confess I got bored and did not finish the book, but I think that's just me. This isn't really my kind of book. The friend who gave it to me liked a lot and read it multiple times.
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ecolit
"Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life."--Edward O. Wilson

This quote is an epigraph to one of the chapters. Oh, how I love the quote and this little gem of a book. I'm thrilled to see it has over 3k reviews and won two awards. It's beautifully packaged with soft pencil drawings reminiscent of the 1970s and telling quotes about snails and nature at the start of each small chapter.

The book is a be
Dec 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
May 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Uplifting observations make this a comfortable, peaceful read that also conveys some practical life lessons. Very easy, quick little read that I enjoyed.
Pooja Bhoi
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I read this year. The story is powerful and the writing is excellent. I will write a detailed review soon.
Nov 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
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
Debbie "DJ"
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, animals
I really enjoyed this book. It's the story of a woman who becomes extremely ill after a trip overseas, and is "gifted" a snail. As she is confined to her bed she begins to pay attention to what her little snail is up to. What ensues is a fascinating look at a snails life. I will never look at a snail the same way again. Their little lives are designed to perfection, and they can teach us all to slow down a little, and smell the roses (or snails)! ...more
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Exquisitely written, beautiful narrative. I would happily be a snail in my next life....
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was a lovely book. I have always had a thing for snails and slugs so when I happened across this title I bought it without looking into what it was. I’m glad I didn’t because if I were to describe it to you it would sound dull. It was not.

The author contracts a mysterious, debilitating disease and is prostrate for months on end, needing care from those around her and unable to move from her bed without assistance. She doesn't dwell on her disease or personal circumstances, but you get the i
Karen Mace
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful little book! I read this as I have a chronic illness too, which the author uses as her theme of how it makes time stand still and makes you notice the little things while you're bedbound, not knowing where the illness will take you next. In her case, the little things was a woodland snail that a friend got for her as company. And the more she's restricted in what she can do each day, the more she watches what the snail gets up to and it's a fascinating study beautifully written ...more
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read this many years ago, sometime after 2007 but before I was on goodreads.
It's the small things that can give a great deal of joy when life takes a turn for the worst.
An excellent memoir.
Connie G
When Elisabeth Tova Bailey returns from a vacation with a debilitating disease, she is confined to bedrest. A friend found a woodland snail and a bunch of field violets in the Maine woods to cheer her up. The snail was soon transferred from a flowerpot to a terrarium full of woodland plants, with a shell holding water and mushrooms for food. Bailey found watching the snail to be fascinating and relaxing:

"Watching it glide along was a welcome distraction and provided a sort of meditation; my ofte
Lesley Moseley
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I too have a recurring need for 'downtime', so could already emphasize with the author Elisabeth Tova Bailey.. I lie on my bed and look at the leaves changing colours, listen to the birds, and read.. This exquisite, well researched , well written, little book, was just the shot..Nature lovers will thrill to her close observations. ...more
Mar 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirish, animalia
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
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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.

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