The Sound Of A Wild Snail Eating

Elisabeth Tova Bailey

The Sound Of A Wild Snail Eating
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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 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.


Short-story writer and essayist Elisabeth Tova Bailey is bedridden. Struck down by a rare disease, she is too ill to move – even sitting upright wearies her. With nothing to entertain her, a friend brings a snail in from the woods and places it in the pot plant of violets next to Tova Bailey’s bed. The writer becomes intrigued by the snail’s solitary and slow existence, which, in her convalescent and isolated state, is one she begins to relate to.

Unable to do anything but lie in bed and observe the snail, Tova Bailey begins to perceive the world in a different, almost microscopic light. She studies the snail’s tiny teeth-marks on the rim of a mushroom, examines the silvery trail that marks the snail’s journeys across its terrarium, and watches as the shells of baby snails develop and harden. As the habits of the common forest snail are revealed, the author finds herself captivated by the life of this tiny mollusc.

As a premise for a book, the close observation of a snail by a sick woman could have resulted in a dull and indulgent story and yet, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, written with quiet insight, inspires contemplation of life’s larger questions. This gentle memoir speaks of resilience found in one of nature’s most unassuming creatures. Tova Bailey has crafted a nuanced story that examines evolution, companionship and mortality, and reminds us, the readers, of the power and beauty of nature.

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