Wednesday, October 12, 2016

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

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.

Thanks to Algonquin books for sending me a copy of this book for review.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I read it shortly after it was published and enjoyed it immensely, for exactly the reasons you describe.


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