THE TIGER: A TRUE STORY OF VENGEANCE AND SURVIVAL -
THE SOUND OF A WILD SNAIL EATING - ELISABETH TOVA BAILEY
I discovered these books reviewed together and immediately requested both from the library. The two animal subjects couldn't be more disparate - the ferocious tiger and the mild snail - yet each is equally intriguing.
John Valliant tells the story of the hunt for a man-eating Siberian tiger in 1997 in Primorye Territory in Russia's Far East. He spares no details (this is not "light-reading") of the tiger's ravages while also presenting a case for the preservation of tigers in the Territory, one of their few remaining viable habitats, although here too poachers kill many adult and cubs. The mystery of the story - why did this tiger kill in an extraordinarily vengeful way, not usual for tigers -- remains only partially solved, but the investigation is thrilling. Vailliant presents the differences in perspectives to the taiga and its wildlife of the European Russian newcomers, and the indigenous Nanai, who view the tiger as a spiritual totem. Both live in near poverty in a harsh climate, yet one of sometimes amazing beauty. Virtual catalog.
In THE SOUND OF A WILD SNAIL EATING, Elisabeth Tova Bailey tells of how a snail brought in on a plant helps her live through a devastating illness. Struck down after a flu with a fatigue so paralyzing she was confined to her bed for several years, and from which she did not completely recover for 20 years, Bailey starts observing the snail as it lives its only slightly more active life confined to a terrarium beside her bed. She reads up on snails and shares her knowledge with us, and it is fascinating. I would never have guessed that snails have an active and loving sex life (so do tigers, but somehow that was not as surprising). Bailey's stoic description of her own life, her joy at being transferred from a bed where she couldn't see out the windows to one where she could, the simple heroism of living with a debilitating illness, is inspiring. Coincidentally, one of her diagnoses is for an illness ME myalgic encephalomyelitis, which is the illness which afflicts the woman in the next book I review as well. In Bailey's case, however, she is found to have a different mitochondrial disease from which she recovered to some extent.