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Book: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

March 10, 2011
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This was my pick for book club this month. You know, the book club meeting where I made completely awesome little chocolate snails. Not that I’m bragging or anything. (oh hey! The author stopped by, too. Wish I could send her a snail!)

This is a beautiful little book. Terri had it, because it is written by someone who suffers with severe CFS. After flipping through it, I realized that it wasn’t so much a book about chronic illness, as it is about what happens when we slow down (whether forced or by choice) and really observe the small things. Like how delicately a wild snail chooses and eats its meal.

Also, meandering through the pages, are lovely little pencil drawings of wild snails. Seriously, such a precious little book. I loved just looking through it.

The summary is this: Elizabeth Bailey was suddenly struck down with a terrifying, baffling illness. She doesn’t dwell much on this, just that she was completely disabled by this illness, and was so ill that she could not easily even turn over in bed. Completely incapacitated. She had an in-home caregiver, who one day brought her a potted plant that had a small wild snail on it. This small snail became Bailey’s link to the world, and the only other living creature within her circle, who even came close to her pace of life as she convalesced in bed. As she lay in bed, watching the snail explore the leaves of the plant, she was brought further and further into the world of the snail.

Later, her caregiver makes a terrarium for the snail, and Bailey is able to make careful notes about how the snail lives. She is able to minutely observe the rituals and intricate life passages of this little snail, her slow companion. The snail had more energy than she did, but because it was, after all, a snail, this pace was not fast, and so Bailey was able to “keep up” with it.

The book was completely absorbing, not a bit depressing, and actually really so interesting about the snail. You would not think that snails were so fascinating, but they are. At least, how she writes about them is fascinating.

Eventually she lovingly explores the entire life of a wild snail, from courtship to egglaying to birth to hibernation. She draws lovely correlations from the snail’s passages to her situation as she slowly recovers enough to move back home, although she never fully recovers, and is still quick sick to this day.

I recommend this book to anyone who either has a chronic illness, knows someone who does, or is interested in slowing life down, even just for a little while. Basically, everyone. It’s a short book, lovely to look at, and very thoughtful. Everyone in my book club enjoyed it more than they anticipated and we had a good discussion about snails, slowing down, illness, and what happens when your life goes completely off the rails and you are forced to slow down to a near-stop for an undetermined length of time.

CFS trivia tidbit: the author of Seabiscuit and now also Unbroken, has severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Laura Hillenbrand is an amazing person, is all I have to say. I loved Seabiscuit. Now that Terri has CFS, I am even more astonished that she could write this book. Any book. It’s amazing.

So. Anyway. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a perfect, lovely, wonderful little book if you’re feeling the need to slow down.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2011 6:11 pm

    I have this one on my shelf and it definitely sounds like I need to move it to the top of my tbr. Thanks for this review, I can tell how much you loved it.

    • March 10, 2011 9:15 pm

      You will love it! So glad you have it. It’s a quick read, for such a nice, slow-paced book.

  2. March 11, 2011 7:31 am

    This sounds like a really good read. Books that put a new perspective on life can be really enlightening. And certainly make you more appreciative. I hope you guys are coping.

    • March 11, 2011 9:21 am

      We have our good days and our bad days. This book reminded me that things can always get worse (and better!).

  3. March 11, 2011 9:01 am

    I have heard a little about this book but not much. It sound wonderful. It’s going on my TBR list.

  4. March 14, 2011 1:51 pm

    ive never heard of this book but it really does sound super sweet and gentle, which is just what you need sometimes.

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