Category Archives: reading

The Monday Book: FISH by L.S. Matthews

I picked up this book while on a week-long writing retreat, one evening when I couldn’t face my own writing any more. It was short, easy to read in an evening, and I stayed up and read it before bed.

LS Matthews has written a charming and deceptively simple story of Tiger, the child of foreign aid workers in a war-torn country. Tiger is the only character in the book who gets a name. The wise guide who takes the family on their harrowing journey says his name is too hard to pronounce so call him Guide. The donkey (also a major character) is Guide. And Tiger’s parents are Mom and Dad.

The country itself is not named. The novel uses childhood innocence to observe the building horror of the situation, and the difficult questions that the horror will stop for Tiger’s family but not the rest, because they are being evacuated if they can reach the airplane. Tiger wants to know what will happen to his friends. His parents try hard to soft-petal that answer, but readers get it.

A journey fraught with hardships resulting from the drought and war that ruined the country shows perils from natural to human. They cannot cross the easiest border because it is now closed to refugees. They are a target, as foreign workers, for kidnapping and ransom. And they don’t know how to navigate the mountains that separate them from the plane that will not wait, and cannot communicate with the plane.

If the book sounds dark, it isn’t. Donkey and Fish are two of the most human characters in the book; on the day they have to leave, Tiger rescues a fish from a receding mud puddle. The fish would have died, the puddle drying up and leaving him noplace to live. Fish continues to be a metaphor for the family’s survival, placed in a water bottle, and eventually…. well, you read the book. You’ll find it interesting.

Spoiler alert: the donkey makes it. :]

Although written for children, I found the simplicity of the story and the metaphor-rich writing lovely, and moving in their stark poetry. Two fins up.

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Filed under animal rescue, book reviews, Life reflections, out of things to read, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, reading

The Monday Book – The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

The Monday Book: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

This charming little book (it can be read in about two hours) was on the shelf at the cabin where I’m holed up getting some writing done. I took it down because it had a pretty drawing on the cover, and read it because it contained the enticing phrase “Viruses are a part of life.”

Well, yes…..

The premise of the book makes good reading during a pandemic: the author is ill with an unusual condition that started with a virus and progressed to a dysfunctional autonomic nerve system. In essence, she couldn’t sit up because gravity did things to her it didn’t do to the rest of the world. Lying flat with minimal movement was hard for a formerly active and healthy gardener, so when a friend brought her some wild violets in a pot, she picked up a woodland snail for good measure. Why she thought the snail would interest her friend, neither woman could ever say.

But the snail did. At first as confused by its new surroundings as Elisabeth was by hers, stuck in care, dependent on friends to do almost everything for her, the snail began to explore at night, eating pieces of paper and flowers brought by friends of the invalid.

Slowly the author came to understand the snail as she did her own illness; move slower through the world, take time for one’s needs, and appreciate the small miracles. But the book is not so much sentimental as descriptive. Learning how a snail’s foot allows these miraculous little creatures to travel over even razor-thin edges without harm is surprisingly fascinating. Likewise discovering that they can seal themselves into their own shells with a special foot slime, or repair their shells with a different kind of slime.

And then there is snail sex…. did you know they literally sling love darts at one another? They do.

Sometimes the right book comes into our lives at the right time. I’m holed up in an unwired cabin to get some writing done, trying to slow down in a world that has had some strangely enforced slowdowns of late, and yet still wanting to undulate along. Like the snail that Elisabeth found she could actually hear eating, so quiet was her life, I am becoming aware of many new things around me. We all are in this strange new world. So take some time to read about the small things in life – the snails and the viruses – that make up this beautiful, peaceful memoir.


Filed under animal rescue, between books, book reviews, humor, Life reflections, reading, Wendy Welch, writing