Sunday, July 24, 2011

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

Crazy title right?  I couldn't resist this book when I saw it on the "new books" shelf at my library.  It is a beautiful, quirky little book complete with detailed sketches of, well, a wild snail.  Page by page, this little snail roams across the text, raises its antenna, stretches, explores, and accompanies you through the book.

While on vacation in Europe, the author contracts a strange and debilitating bacterial infection and finds herself bedridden.  On a whim, a friend finds a small woodland snail and brings it to her in a pot of violets.  This small gift, this tiny creature, becomes an endless source of entertainment and companionship for a woman who feels as if he life has been taken away.  She becomes enraptures with the tiny creature's physique, habits, and preferences.  Before long she is requesting any material in print about these woodland creatures and is carefully observing and appreciating the life cycle of her snail.

Over time, her illness abates slightly and she is able to slowly return to normal life.  However, her prolongued exile with only a mollusk as company has made her a quieter, more intuitive individual.

Heavily footnoted, each chapter and section of this book contains a small quote, exerpt, or poem about the life of the mollusk.  I was surprised and entertained about how carefully observed and appreciated these tiny creatures have been.  This is a quick and relaxing read, almost like an extended poem.  It is a good reminder of the importance of taking life more slowly, stopping to observe and appreciate the wonders of the world, large and small. 

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