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.