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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

Elisabeth Tova Bailey

  • awardWinner, National Outdoor Book Awards, United States, 2010
  • awardWinner, John Burroughs Medal Award, United States, 2011
  • awardWinner, Stanford Saroyan Prize for Writing, United States, 2012
  • In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Tova 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 understanding of the interconnections between species and her own human place in the natural 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 overlooked and 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.


    Listen to Elisabeth discuss Wild Snail on Radio National’s The Book Show.
    Follow this link to fan Don Nissen’s inspired slideshow.

    ABC Radio: Nightlife

    About the Author

    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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    Text publication date:
    31 January 2011
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    Praise for Elisabeth Tova Bailey
    andThe Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

    ‘ An exquisite book on the healing power of nature…this is a gem…I highly recommend this slim volume about loss, isolation, connection to the natural world and hope. It is a book that will be equally appreciated by physicians, carers and patients. At the end, one of left with a sense of wonder and this is what truly defines it as a unique work.’

    ‘A woman with a mysterious disease is slowed to a snail’s pace. Who would ever guess that the reward for pausing to look at a mollusc could be so profound? Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s book makes us see the natural world afresh. A fantastic investigation into both snails and the human condition.’

    ‘This is an entrancing record of spiral love, one which grows from the delicate devotion the author feels for a snail-companion, out into the widest whorls of biophilia.’

    ‘This remarkable meditation on coming to terms with one’s own frailties through understanding the frailties of another species will surely renew our sense of wonder with the world. It is a triumph.’

    ‘To carry off a book like this—featuring Bailey’s observations of a snail living in a bedside pot plant—you have to be either a very good writer or a really interesting person. Thankfully, this New England writer bedridden with a mysterious illness is both. Her book is, in turn, comforting, a delightful piece of time out and a meditation away from a sometimes tumultuous and anxiety-inducing world.’

    Other editions ofThe Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
    • The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
      ISBN: 9781921834318
      31 January 2011
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