When Elisabeth Tova Bailey was struck with a debilitating illness, her friend found a snail in the woods and brought it to her in a pot of violets.
“Why, did you bring it in?” She asks her friend.
“I don’t know. I thought you might enjoy it.”
Why, she wonders, would she enjoy a snail? She was bedridden at the age of thirty-four after a trip to Europe where she contracted a mysterious viral or bacterial infection, resulting in severe neurological symptoms. But as she convalesced, she had little company but her small snail, and she began to recognize the beauty in the snail’s slow movements and finite world. She also recognized the similarities to her own situation; the snails life in many ways was a metaphor for her own.
“Survival often depends on a specific focus: a relationship, a belief, or a hope balanced on the edge of possibility,” Bailey writes. The snail become all those things for her. A spirit guide of sorts as she navigated through the new and unfamiliar world of living with a chronic illness.
Bailey’s lyrical prose breathes life into what, for some, could be a dry topic. Her curiosity and resilience in the face of a devastating illness make this an inspiring read for anyone who feels hobbled by their current circumstances.
Though published in 2010, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a quiet book that seems as though it was written specifically for our current quarantine. If you are feeling overwhelmed, or are having trouble concentrating on that 1,000 page epic that you started in January, take a break and spend some time with Elisabeth Tova Bailey and her snail.
This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reads.