Mainer Elisabeth Tova Bailey is bedridden due to a rare illness, but when a friend brings in a pot of transplanted violets with a common woodland snail attached, her one-room world transforms. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (Algonquin Books, New York, NY; Hardcover; 208 pages; $18.95) is the splendid first-person account of Bailey’s long illness seen through the lens of her observation of the snail — eating, sleeping, moving, and just being. Peppered with fascinating scientific information about Neohelix albolabris, this short collection of essays is as riveting as it is informative.
When Eva Murray took the teaching job in a one-room school on Matinicus in 1987, she fully anticipated it would be a short-term stay on the island twenty-two miles out to sea. Well Out to Sea (Tilbury House, Gardiner; paperback; 308 pages; $20) is the story of the ensuing two decades Murray has lived there. Part memoir, part social history of a unique island and its population, these essays bring the myths of real island life into focus.