THE SOUND OF A WILD SNAIL EATING

Elisabeth Tova Bailey

In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her 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 her own place in the world.

Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and courtship activities,

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In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her 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 her own place in the world.

Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, offering a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal.

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 can illuminate our own human existence, while providing an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

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  • Algonquin Books
  • Paperback
  • September 2016
  • 208 Pages
  • 9781616206420

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$14.95

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About Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s essays and short stories have been published in the Missouri ReviewNorthwest Review, and the Sycamore Review. She has received several Pushcart Prize nominations, and the essay on which this book is based received a notable essay listing in Best American Essays. She lives in Maine.

Praise

“An exquisite meditation on the restorative connection between nature and humans … with sentences of stunning lyrical beauty.”Huffington Post

“How interesting can a snail be? Entirely captivating, as it turns out. [Bailey] is a marvelous writer, and the marriage of science and poetic mysticism that characterizes this small volume is magical…”Star Tribune

“[Bailey] found comfort in an unlikely companion — a tiny snail, whose micro-doings are the source of a surprising philosophy.”—Entertainment Weekly

Discussion Questions

1. There are two protagonists in The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, the snail and the human. Did you find yourself drawn to one more than the other? If so, which one, and why?

2. What did you find most fascinating about the snail?

3. Did the author’s decision not to name the snail impact the narrative? If so, how?

4. How does the author’s awareness of and relationship with the snail develop over the course of the book?

5. How did the snail change the author’s understanding of the natural world as a whole?

6. Whether you are healthy or have an illness, do you ever feel like there is a divide between those two experiences? Do you reach out to friends with health challenges? Do they reach out to you?

7. Have you ever found the natural world to be more comforting than the company of other people? If so, describe such an instance.

8. How does one maintain one’s outlook when illness—or any other type of challenge—results in numerous losses? Consider the ways in which major challenges reshape a life. What gets you through such challenges?

9. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is being read by both women and men. Why do you think it crosses the gender gap?

10. Would you recommend this book to friends and, if so, why? Would it be for the natural history of the snail or the narrative about illness and healing? Or for another reason?