The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating: Book Recommendation

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating: Elisabeth Tova Bailey

I can’t really call this a book review since I haven’t finished reading it yet. But I didn’t want to wait another minute before recommending this charming, odd, heart-rending book.

The heart-rending part comes from the fact that Bailey, at 34, was stricken with a mysterious virus that left her incapacitated and mostly bedridden for years. Yes, years. Her honest reflections on illness are a must-read for clergy or anyone who is a caregiver.

A member of the church gave me the book to for Christmas, and it’s one of those books I immediately want to pass on to others, especially folks dealing with chronic illness and pain, with the instruction to pass it along to someone else. I picture a long string of inscriptions in the front as the book makes its way around the world.

The snail in the book was an unexpected gift from a friend of Bailey’s, who brought her a bunch of wild violets that included a little stowaway. Bailey takes strange comfort in this resident gastropod—its modest otherness, its steadfastness. She becomes fascinated by snails and does extensive research (while bedridden), which she shares with the reader.

The writing is beautifully restrained, and she’s got a great eye for detail and a gift for description. I am reminded of Anne Fadiman’s At Large and At Small, and the chapter on pain from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World.

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One thought on “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating: Book Recommendation

  1. Rachel Heslin says:

    I’ll see if I can find it. My mom was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr and was also bedridden for years. It’s only relatively recently that she’s started getting her life back. I’d be interested in reading this to see if any of Bailey’s reflections might speak to her.

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