A Playwright Juggles Twins, Her Career and Unexpected Illness in Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl


My Review

In this beautifully written memoir, Smile: The Story of a Face, mother of three and award winning playwright, Sarah Ruhl shares her decade long struggle through a medical illness that leads her to greater understanding and healing. After a high risk pregnancy and the birth of her twins she developed chronic Bell’s Palsy where half her face was frozen. An accomplished poet, essayist and playwright, she had a play opening on Broadway yet the excitement of that success was dulled by the fact that she feared her children didn’t feel her love because her face could not show her smile. With an unexpressive, flattened out canvas of a face she was unable to communicate what she intended without extra effort that included increased gestures and a more animated, friendlier voice. There were other complications as well. In addition to the frozen face, in the early, acute phase, loud noises were excruciating, and finally when that went back to normal Sarah still had to recover her ability to blink. While investigating the medical aspects of the nerve damage, it was also discovered that Sarah also had Celiac Disease.

On an endless search for a cure to recover her smile, while at the same time learning to accept the imbalance of her appearance, Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award nominee, Sarah Ruhl takes us with her on a personal journey where she explores marriage, motherhood and self acceptance, also sharing her thoughts on depression, anxiety, Celiac Disease and chronic illness. Smile: The Story of a Face is an introspective, emotional read that encourages the reader to think about how we see ourselves, communicate and interact with others and develop relationships. I’m sure writing this book helped the author make sense of what she was faced with and I highly recommend it.

Sarah Ruhl

About the Author

Sarah Ruhl (born 1974) is an American playwright. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a distinguished American playwright in mid-career.

Originally, she intended to be a poet. However, after she studied under Paula Vogel at Brown University (A.B., 1997; M.F.A., 2001), she was persuaded to switch to playwriting. Her first play was The Dog Play, written in 1995 for one of Vogel’s classes. Her roots in poetry can be seen in the way she uses language in her plays. She also did graduate work at Pembroke College, Oxford.

In September 2006, she received a MacArthur Fellowship. The announcement of that award stated: “Sarah Ruhl, 32, playwright, New York City. Playwright creating vivid and adventurous theatrical works that poignantly juxtapose the mundane aspects of daily life with mythic themes of love and war.”

Book Nation by Jen

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