Hot Best Seller

Smile: The Story of a Face

Availability: Ready to download

2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence Longlist Selection The extraordinary story of one woman’s ten-year medical and metaphysical odyssey that brought her physical, creative, emotional, and spiritual healing, by a MacArthur genius and two-time Pulitzer finalist. With a play opening on Broadway, and every reason to smile, Sarah Ruhl has just survived a high-risk pregnanc 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence Longlist Selection The extraordinary story of one woman’s ten-year medical and metaphysical odyssey that brought her physical, creative, emotional, and spiritual healing, by a MacArthur genius and two-time Pulitzer finalist. With a play opening on Broadway, and every reason to smile, Sarah Ruhl has just survived a high-risk pregnancy when she discovers the left side of her face is completely paralyzed. She is assured that 90 percent of Bell’s palsy patients see spontaneous improvement and experience a full recovery. Like Ruhl’s own mother. But Sarah is in the unlucky ten percent. And for a woman, wife, mother, and artist working in theater, the paralysis and the disconnect between the interior and exterior brings significant and specific challenges. So Ruhl begins an intense decade-long search for a cure while simultaneously grappling with the reality of her new face—one that, while recognizably her own—is incapable of accurately communicating feelings or intentions. In a series of piercing, witty, and lucid meditations, Ruhl chronicles her journey as a patient, wife, mother, and artist. She explores the struggle of a body yearning to match its inner landscape, the pain of postpartum depression, the story of a marriage, being a playwright and working mom to three small children, and the desire for a resilient spiritual life in the face of illness. Brimming with insight, humility, and levity, Smile is a triumph by one of America’s leading playwrights. It is an intimate examination of loss and reconciliation, and above all else, the importance of perseverance and hope in the face of adversity.


Compare

2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence Longlist Selection The extraordinary story of one woman’s ten-year medical and metaphysical odyssey that brought her physical, creative, emotional, and spiritual healing, by a MacArthur genius and two-time Pulitzer finalist. With a play opening on Broadway, and every reason to smile, Sarah Ruhl has just survived a high-risk pregnanc 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence Longlist Selection The extraordinary story of one woman’s ten-year medical and metaphysical odyssey that brought her physical, creative, emotional, and spiritual healing, by a MacArthur genius and two-time Pulitzer finalist. With a play opening on Broadway, and every reason to smile, Sarah Ruhl has just survived a high-risk pregnancy when she discovers the left side of her face is completely paralyzed. She is assured that 90 percent of Bell’s palsy patients see spontaneous improvement and experience a full recovery. Like Ruhl’s own mother. But Sarah is in the unlucky ten percent. And for a woman, wife, mother, and artist working in theater, the paralysis and the disconnect between the interior and exterior brings significant and specific challenges. So Ruhl begins an intense decade-long search for a cure while simultaneously grappling with the reality of her new face—one that, while recognizably her own—is incapable of accurately communicating feelings or intentions. In a series of piercing, witty, and lucid meditations, Ruhl chronicles her journey as a patient, wife, mother, and artist. She explores the struggle of a body yearning to match its inner landscape, the pain of postpartum depression, the story of a marriage, being a playwright and working mom to three small children, and the desire for a resilient spiritual life in the face of illness. Brimming with insight, humility, and levity, Smile is a triumph by one of America’s leading playwrights. It is an intimate examination of loss and reconciliation, and above all else, the importance of perseverance and hope in the face of adversity.

30 review for Smile: The Story of a Face

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    How important is our face? How does it affect our body image, our mental state? These questions will prove of paramount importance after this author gives birth to twins and is strickened with Bells Palsy. One side of her face paralyzed, unable to close one, drooping eye and able to smile on only one side, she will struggle with a condition that usually clears up within a few months. Hers would last over ten years. Her continuing quest for answers, treatments, cures, she would try many. Bad doct How important is our face? How does it affect our body image, our mental state? These questions will prove of paramount importance after this author gives birth to twins and is strickened with Bells Palsy. One side of her face paralyzed, unable to close one, drooping eye and able to smile on only one side, she will struggle with a condition that usually clears up within a few months. Hers would last over ten years. Her continuing quest for answers, treatments, cures, she would try many. Bad doctors, good doctors, alternative treatments, friends advice, she would follow many. Her life as a mother, an award winning playwright, a wife, all aspects of her life would become background to the way she now saw herself. This is her story, her journey, and she conveys it with honesty. All the frustrations, despair, self awareness is related but also the hope she continually holds. A terrific memoir of an illness of which I knew little. ARC from Edelweiss.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Roxana

    Sarah Ruhl writes about everything with the clarity of a water droplet and the power of a waterfall. I’m not sure I’ve ever read or heard any of her work, in any genre or form, without crying at least a little. Smile: The Story of a Face is no different, though perhaps even more personal and vulnerable, so that reading it feels like being trusted with something fragile and intimate. A reflection on symmetry and divisions, on motherhood and marriage and meditation, on what it is to see and to be Sarah Ruhl writes about everything with the clarity of a water droplet and the power of a waterfall. I’m not sure I’ve ever read or heard any of her work, in any genre or form, without crying at least a little. Smile: The Story of a Face is no different, though perhaps even more personal and vulnerable, so that reading it feels like being trusted with something fragile and intimate. A reflection on symmetry and divisions, on motherhood and marriage and meditation, on what it is to see and to be seen. A deeply moving, absorbing book; I'd expect nothing less from Sarah Ruhl, and I'm grateful to have read it. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    Interesting in parts but the religious stuff is just not my cup of tea.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    An amazing story of a human soul...its growth, change and self acceptance couched within the story of one woman's slow , and not totally complete recovery from Bell's Palsy. Ruhl is fearless in her depiction of her illness and the psychological implications for her, her husband and her children. She details her long journey to recovery (not complete by the end of the narrative), her post partum depression, celiac disease and other complications. Along the way we see how she does or does not deal An amazing story of a human soul...its growth, change and self acceptance couched within the story of one woman's slow , and not totally complete recovery from Bell's Palsy. Ruhl is fearless in her depiction of her illness and the psychological implications for her, her husband and her children. She details her long journey to recovery (not complete by the end of the narrative), her post partum depression, celiac disease and other complications. Along the way we see how she does or does not deal with these difficulties and watch as she slowly grows in self understanding and self realization. I loved this well written, beautiful memoir and think many others will too. Highly recommended, especially for those who like memoir. Thank you to Byrd's Book for the ARC.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Thanks to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for an early copy of this work. It’s easily one of my favorite books of the year! Focused primarily on the decade from the birth of her children to the present, Smile is the story of Ruhl’s experience with Bell’s Palsy, a paralysis of one side of her face which struck after the birth of her twins. In many cases, Bell’s Palsy resolves itself in a matter of months, but in Ruhls’ case, it did not. This is her memoir of being a person, a woman, a theater art Thanks to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for an early copy of this work. It’s easily one of my favorite books of the year! Focused primarily on the decade from the birth of her children to the present, Smile is the story of Ruhl’s experience with Bell’s Palsy, a paralysis of one side of her face which struck after the birth of her twins. In many cases, Bell’s Palsy resolves itself in a matter of months, but in Ruhls’ case, it did not. This is her memoir of being a person, a woman, a theater artist, who was unable to make her exterior match her interior state, and more broadly, a funny, vulnerable meditation on what it means to feel embodied joy, and what happens to the heart when the body will not cooperate. In Ruhl’s profound-but-relatable, quietly reflective style, she uses the experience to reflect on her life, on illness and wellness, on connection and alienation. I recall Ruhl's observation in her (also brilliant) essay collection 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write (#76!) about the lack of plays that take seriously the experience of motherhood from the mother’s point of view, and this book seems to be a near-perfect addition to the neglected canon of stories that center and illuminate that experience. Speaking personally, it was eye opening, as a man, to learn about Ruhl’s experience as a new mother working in theater. I knew intellectually that workplaces suck at accommodating parents and especially new mothers, but WOW, the things that happened to actual legend/genius Sarah Ruhl were so infuriating; her recounting of them gave me a slightly realer understanding of the world. If you’re already a fan of Sarah Ruhl, like me, there’s also a fun “behind the music” quality to the book; you get to better understand the personal context of some of her recent books and plays. But if you’ve never encountered her work, this is the perfect place to start: here’s a standout memoir for anyone who craves a wise, reflective, funny vision of the world through the eyes of someone who has had a relatively unusual vantage point on it for the past decade, and who has the tremendous writerly skill--and generosity--to share how it changed her.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sonya

    When playwright Sarah Ruhl gave birth to twins after a difficult pregnancy, something happened and she developed Bells Palsy, a condition that forever changes her self-perception and the way she feels comfortable confronting the world. This memoir discusses that journey. What sets it apart from similar stories is her curiosity and engagement with the wider world. She has a successful career in the arts and must work diligently to keep producing art while taking care of babies and her own health. When playwright Sarah Ruhl gave birth to twins after a difficult pregnancy, something happened and she developed Bells Palsy, a condition that forever changes her self-perception and the way she feels comfortable confronting the world. This memoir discusses that journey. What sets it apart from similar stories is her curiosity and engagement with the wider world. She has a successful career in the arts and must work diligently to keep producing art while taking care of babies and her own health. And so she asks what does a smile mean, anyway? Why must a woman be expected to smile in every circumstance? Will her babies be alienated from a mother who can't beam down at them with a loving face? And beyond sociology, Ruhl must also navigate a complicated medical system that doesn't know how to go about treating her. Both sorrow and a nod to the absurdist situation this condition has brought to her are here in the story. And it might be a sort of path for others in similar circumstances to follow. This memoir is excellent and recommended. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this lovely book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Beautifully-written memoir that really captures what it's like to have a chronic medical condition (in which ones "wins" are slowly measured out in the course of years instead of weeks or days.) I really appreciated the use of photography to outline examples in the book. I knew very little about Bell's Palsy before reading this book (especially how common it could be for postpartum women) and learned a lot from Ruhl's experience--not only how it felt for her, but also the importance we put on fa Beautifully-written memoir that really captures what it's like to have a chronic medical condition (in which ones "wins" are slowly measured out in the course of years instead of weeks or days.) I really appreciated the use of photography to outline examples in the book. I knew very little about Bell's Palsy before reading this book (especially how common it could be for postpartum women) and learned a lot from Ruhl's experience--not only how it felt for her, but also the importance we put on faces and smiles in our communications and community building. Like most complex medical conditions, losing one's smile is something few of us ever take time to consider. As someone who has complex chronic medical issues, I really appreciated the author's detailed description of her healing. I too am all too familiar with the "making it up as you go" process of trying everything and everyone and what it feels like to encounter dismissive, distracted healers whose bad advice ends up adding years to your journey. Those stories are some of the most gripping and sad (the PT at the gym!) in the book. The weakness of the book is one the author acknowledges herself. It's a slow one, without a dramatic finale. In that way, the softer focus of this memoir might be overshadowed by others which tell a more harrowing tale. However, those more dramatic memoirs often suffer from sub-par writing. There is no doubt that Ruhl has a way with words. It's that gift that keep this particular story moving and the reader engaged. I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tom O’Leary

    Award-winning, renowned playwright Sarah Ruhl has given theater audiences the world over (including myself) enormous and often life changing pleasure. Now she has written a heart wrenching and yet life affirming memoir of her journey with Bells Palsey. I adored every sentence of this wise and wonderful book. Every single sentence. The wisdom and humor and pain of this 10 year journey is conveyed so very beautifully. A perfect book. Truly.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    An adorable story about a play write who developed Bell’s Palsy after delivering twins. A lot of great information, both emotional and factual, is presented regarding this affliction and situation. I could only imagine what she went through! Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    I've seen and enjoyed several of Sarah Ruhl's plays, so I was excited to read her new memoir and learn more about her as a writer and a person. Smile is about Ruhl's birth of twins and subsequent onset of Bell's palsy, a condition where the face is partially paralyzed.  The first part of the book was the most interesting to me, about the pregnancy, births, the beginning of the Bell's palsy, and the challenges of working as a playwright through all of these things. Ruhl writes with eloquence, insi I've seen and enjoyed several of Sarah Ruhl's plays, so I was excited to read her new memoir and learn more about her as a writer and a person. Smile is about Ruhl's birth of twins and subsequent onset of Bell's palsy, a condition where the face is partially paralyzed.  The first part of the book was the most interesting to me, about the pregnancy, births, the beginning of the Bell's palsy, and the challenges of working as a playwright through all of these things. Ruhl writes with eloquence, insight, and humor. (One favorite story was about people misunderstanding her pronunciation of her daughter's name) She would often jump back in time to share stories of her past that helped frame her present situation, and there are a lot of academic references as well. Somewhere in the middle, I stopped feeling quite as engaged with the story. All of the real life drama in the beginning provided a lot of interesting content, but after that, her life settled into a more steady rhythm. There are lots of little stories that were fine to read through but didn't necessarily draw me forward to the next, and in between, there was a lot of musings about faces, spirituality, illness, and more. Most of the subjects are mentioned lightly and didn't provide me with any takeaways, with the exception of the topic of faces. I'm still thinking about how it must feel like to have a face that can't express the emotion you feel, the importance we as a society place on horizontal symmetry, and all the things that a smile signifies.  I think Ruhl anticipated that the end of her memoir, people would be wanting some sort of big, satisfying conclusion (which admittedly is what I was feeling), and wrote: "My years of writing plays tells me that a story requires an apotheosis, a sudden transformation. But my story has been so slow, so incremental, the nature of the chronic, which resists plot and epiphany... What kind of story is that?" A story worth reading, I think. Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joy R.

    Ruhl’s Journey to walk through the mystery of Bell’s palsy is a thoughtful and insightful read. This story, written with the intensity and clarity of the poet and playwright Ruhl is, offers a generous encouragement to one’s soul, using her long-term illness as a backdrop. Reminding each of us of the role a simple smile makes in our daily lives, Ruhl connects her experience to religion, cure, love, career, and grief as we follow her inquiry and search for wholeness. Filled with memorable phrases Ruhl’s Journey to walk through the mystery of Bell’s palsy is a thoughtful and insightful read. This story, written with the intensity and clarity of the poet and playwright Ruhl is, offers a generous encouragement to one’s soul, using her long-term illness as a backdrop. Reminding each of us of the role a simple smile makes in our daily lives, Ruhl connects her experience to religion, cure, love, career, and grief as we follow her inquiry and search for wholeness. Filled with memorable phrases and useful terms, her story is a breath of fresh air for all of us who have struggled with long-term challenges. Thank you Sarah!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brianna Miller

    This was an interesting memoir about a condition that I had very little knowledge of. Having a friend that recently was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy definitely added to my level of interest in this book. I found the book easy to read and it kept my attention pretty well through the first 60-70% of the book. The last third of the book for some reason became less interesting to me, almost as if the author were trying to fill pages with random added info. While the story opened my eyes to how differen This was an interesting memoir about a condition that I had very little knowledge of. Having a friend that recently was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy definitely added to my level of interest in this book. I found the book easy to read and it kept my attention pretty well through the first 60-70% of the book. The last third of the book for some reason became less interesting to me, almost as if the author were trying to fill pages with random added info. While the story opened my eyes to how differently people are perceived just because of an asymmetrical face, and while I felt a lot of empathy for the author and her experience, I think I expected a deeper, more introspective look at the experience. And while there were parts of the book that focused on that, a lot of it was more focused on random stories from the author's life as well as her plan of treatment and the experiences with different doctors. I did especially feel empathy for her as a mother, especially with the concern about her children being affected for life by her inability to smile at them as babies. I feel for the anxiety and anguish that she suffered through, and it's crazy how life can change overnight. I also really admired her persistence in fighting the Bell's Palsy, trying various different treatments. I do feel that the author is extremely fortunate to have the financial means to be able to experiment with all different types of treatment, but also realize that's not the situation for everyone. And I certainly don't fault the author for that. I'm happy that she was in a position to try different forms of treatment and especially that she took the time to write a book and share those experiences with others. I'm sure that others suffering from Bell's Palsy will find hope within the pages of this book, and I think it's a good read for everyone to gain a better understanding of the struggles that people go through. It's so easy to take things like smiling, eating, drinking, blowing up balloons (this was referenced in the book) for granted. This book was a great reminder to appreciate all of those little things that it's so easy to overlook.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    At a time when our smiles are hidden by masks, Sarah’s experience is even more thought provoking. She writes in such a way that you feel you are a trusted friend and connects you intimately with her story. Beautifully written, this memoir sheds light on so many important lessons and spiritual reminders about what really matters in life.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    It seems wrong to say that I really enjoyed reading about Sara's struggle with Bell's Palsy. The writing is very accessible - it makes you feel like you're out to lunch with one of your girlfriends, catching up on her life over some fish tacos and margaritas. The photos added to that feeling of connection and a better understanding of her paralysis. It was interesting to think about the social aspects of smiling and facial expressions and to understand the mental impact of being unable to speak It seems wrong to say that I really enjoyed reading about Sara's struggle with Bell's Palsy. The writing is very accessible - it makes you feel like you're out to lunch with one of your girlfriends, catching up on her life over some fish tacos and margaritas. The photos added to that feeling of connection and a better understanding of her paralysis. It was interesting to think about the social aspects of smiling and facial expressions and to understand the mental impact of being unable to speak clearly, express joy, smile at a stranger etc.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carol Surges

    When I saw a review of this book mentioning that it was about someone who had Bell's Palsy, I was immediately intrigued. Who would write about that? Then when I began to read Ruhl's memoir and discovered that a small percentage of those afflicted have permanent paralysis, and the author was one of those few, I was shocked and honestly relieved that I had escaped the worst of what the disease could offer. For people who don't know, Bell's Palsy is a strange affliction that paralyzes one side of t When I saw a review of this book mentioning that it was about someone who had Bell's Palsy, I was immediately intrigued. Who would write about that? Then when I began to read Ruhl's memoir and discovered that a small percentage of those afflicted have permanent paralysis, and the author was one of those few, I was shocked and honestly relieved that I had escaped the worst of what the disease could offer. For people who don't know, Bell's Palsy is a strange affliction that paralyzes one side of the face. There's no comprehensive explanation for what causes it and as the author shows, no sure fire cure. Most people gradually get their facial movements back but most have some residual damage. Like the author, I too can usually identify people who have had it. Ruhl spent 10 years trying to bring her face back to what it was using every kind of therapy - most of it experimental. While she worked on the physical aspects of her problem, she also explored what literature, philosophy, psychology and history had to say about the face and its impact on the human experience. It's a deeply felt and researched look at a disease we know so little about.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristine Circenis

    Thank you Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the electronic advanced reader's copy. Content warnings: birth trauma, medical discussion, mention of suicide Ruhl details her onset of Bell's palsy and the thereafter with great detail and care. I appreciate her candidness in describing the rollercoaster of emotions, mental and physical symptoms, and frustrations with medical professionals. Her memoir opened my eyes more broadly to Bell's palsy as a condition and to the lack of research on its occurren Thank you Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the electronic advanced reader's copy. Content warnings: birth trauma, medical discussion, mention of suicide Ruhl details her onset of Bell's palsy and the thereafter with great detail and care. I appreciate her candidness in describing the rollercoaster of emotions, mental and physical symptoms, and frustrations with medical professionals. Her memoir opened my eyes more broadly to Bell's palsy as a condition and to the lack of research on its occurrence in pregnant and/or people who have recently given birth. I also loved the inclusion of photographs throughout the book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dina Horne

    It took a bit for me to get into this memoir. You could say I went in blind, not knowing Ruhl or her work. It was a slow start, and I thought we had just another book about a working woman who had babies. It became much more, living with disappointment and pain. Love and loss. Faith and questioning. Ruhl highlights the identity women especially wrestle to see for and of themselves. She is authentic and raw and yet not so serious that you can be disarmed, all of a sudden realizing that her insigh It took a bit for me to get into this memoir. You could say I went in blind, not knowing Ruhl or her work. It was a slow start, and I thought we had just another book about a working woman who had babies. It became much more, living with disappointment and pain. Love and loss. Faith and questioning. Ruhl highlights the identity women especially wrestle to see for and of themselves. She is authentic and raw and yet not so serious that you can be disarmed, all of a sudden realizing that her insights are not just applicable to her story. Her relationship with her husband is heartwarming. Don’t miss her final haiku to him in the end notes.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Molly Sullivan Donnelly

    Happy publishing day to this beautiful book! This is the true story of playwriter Sarah Ruhl’s health journey after she gave birth to her twins. After her babies are born, Ruhl discovers that the left side of her face is paralyzed and she is living with Bell’s palsy. The author does a stunning job describing her journey as becoming a mom of three, a wife, a play writer and a human in society without a smile. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the advance copy of this book in exchang Happy publishing day to this beautiful book! This is the true story of playwriter Sarah Ruhl’s health journey after she gave birth to her twins. After her babies are born, Ruhl discovers that the left side of her face is paralyzed and she is living with Bell’s palsy. The author does a stunning job describing her journey as becoming a mom of three, a wife, a play writer and a human in society without a smile. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jackie Sunday

    This is a book with an emotional appeal on how important our face looks to others. Sarah Ruhl could write about anything. She has built a successful career as an American playwright. She is a mother of three beautiful children and has a husband who not only adores her but has a top-notch career as a child psychiatrist. Yet, she writes about her face; her smile. It isn't symmetrical. There are several reasons why a face has faults: genetics, injuries, strokes, aging and in Ruhl's world...it's cause This is a book with an emotional appeal on how important our face looks to others. Sarah Ruhl could write about anything. She has built a successful career as an American playwright. She is a mother of three beautiful children and has a husband who not only adores her but has a top-notch career as a child psychiatrist. Yet, she writes about her face; her smile. It isn't symmetrical. There are several reasons why a face has faults: genetics, injuries, strokes, aging and in Ruhl's world...it's caused from Bell's palsy after she brought two twins into the world. She said that was the day "my smile walked off my face and wondered out in the world." In her book, she pours her heart out to describe her inner thoughts as a pretty Irish woman to have a face paralyzed on the left side after delivering her twins. The results were half a smile, difficulty eating some foods and communicating facial expressions. While most people recover from Bell's palsy within a short period of time, she didn't have such luck. She resorted to all sorts of treatments looking for a cure. While reading, I felt like I was at a diner listening to her talk about her life which seemed pretty good to me in spite of her smile. It's a book that would be especially helpful for women with postpartum depression, Celiac disease and Bell's palsy. Yet as she said, our true "purpose in life is to give and receive love" and not dwell on our looks. The book has lots of photos of the author and her family and in my opinion, they all look amazing. After reading, I saw a friend waving and I smiled...thinking of the words I had just read. My thanks to Sarah Ruhl, Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for allowing me to read this advanced copy to be released on October 5, 2021.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Parker

    The author writes of becoming affected by Bell’s palsy following the birth of her twins and the subsequent decade that she spent living with the condition, which still has never completely cleared up. I can wholeheartedly sympathize with anyone having to deal long term with a situation that is quite temporary for most people afflicted. Being in that minority would, frankly, suck. That being said, I thought this memoir lacked the emotional punch that separates good memoirs from great ones. I didn The author writes of becoming affected by Bell’s palsy following the birth of her twins and the subsequent decade that she spent living with the condition, which still has never completely cleared up. I can wholeheartedly sympathize with anyone having to deal long term with a situation that is quite temporary for most people afflicted. Being in that minority would, frankly, suck. That being said, I thought this memoir lacked the emotional punch that separates good memoirs from great ones. I didn’t think this was great; it was pretty good, occasionally wandering into boring territory. Thanks #netgalley and #simonschuster for this ARC of #smile in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Boquet

    Loved, loved, loved this book. I didn’t realize, until I started reading, that she is also the author of The Vibrator Play, which I saw years ago and also loved. I think I will design a whole unit around her work the next time I teach Lit of Illness and Healing.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zara

    This was incredibly beautiful (and Ruhl’s reading voice is perfect). Inspiring, funny, heartbreaking, hopeful, exploring, among other things, beauty, identity, motherhood, loss… Probably a 4.5 but I rounded up because the last few chapters made me cry.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    In Smile, Sarah Ruhl recounts losing her smile, a result of postpartum Bell's Palsy, and how she got it back. Overall, I enjoyed this memoir. Ruhl's writing is simple and easy to read. I loved how this read, to me, as a series of anecdotes. Throughout, Ruhl ruminates on the importance of a smile and how the ability to smile affects one's ability to feel joy. Ruhl writes candidly about pregnancy and about the shame that often accompanies miscarriages and complicated pregnancies even though these a In Smile, Sarah Ruhl recounts losing her smile, a result of postpartum Bell's Palsy, and how she got it back. Overall, I enjoyed this memoir. Ruhl's writing is simple and easy to read. I loved how this read, to me, as a series of anecdotes. Throughout, Ruhl ruminates on the importance of a smile and how the ability to smile affects one's ability to feel joy. Ruhl writes candidly about pregnancy and about the shame that often accompanies miscarriages and complicated pregnancies even though these are fairly common incidents. She writes of her experience with western medicine and doctors, who do not listen and are uninterested in patient history. And through these experiences we learn about Bell's Palsy, cholestasis and Celiac disease, and of the alternative medicine and methods that help her to find her smile. A lovely memoir, sprinkled with quirky humor and lots of warmth.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Drea

    Stunning. Man, can Sarah Ruhl write. What a gorgeous memoir of a segment of the author’s life written with intelligence and compassion and honesty and humor. This book is, of course, about much more than the author overcoming a serious condition in her very privileged life. Drawing from different religions and friends’ wise stories and passages from other written works, Ms Ruhl’s words were poignant and relevant to me despite never facing a challenge such as hers. Pick this one up. Get a physica Stunning. Man, can Sarah Ruhl write. What a gorgeous memoir of a segment of the author’s life written with intelligence and compassion and honesty and humor. This book is, of course, about much more than the author overcoming a serious condition in her very privileged life. Drawing from different religions and friends’ wise stories and passages from other written works, Ms Ruhl’s words were poignant and relevant to me despite never facing a challenge such as hers. Pick this one up. Get a physical copy because you’ll want to take notes and dog-ear the heck out of this one. Heartfelt thanks to Simon and Schuster for this truly lovely advance copy. I’m grateful.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Gorgeous!!

  26. 4 out of 5

    James Beggarly

    Thanks to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for the ebook. The playwright Sarah Ruhl is pregnant with twins and after the births, she finds that she has Bell’s palsy. While most people have this for three months, Sarah starts a ten year odyssey as she tries to take care of her new children, continue to write and stage her plays and try to heal herself on the outside and the inside. Blunt, honest, moving and filled with warmth and humor. This is a fascinating journey.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    "I felt inside a paradox: I thought I could not truly reenter the world until I could smile again; and yet, how could I be happy enough to smile again when i couldn't reenter the world? (63). "Sontag writes: 'Theories that diseases are caused by mental states and can be cured by will power are always an index of how much is not understood about the physical terrain of a disease'" (89). "It was not a psychic wound caused by my anger, my inability to accept my bounty. It was not my fault. Now I coul "I felt inside a paradox: I thought I could not truly reenter the world until I could smile again; and yet, how could I be happy enough to smile again when i couldn't reenter the world? (63). "Sontag writes: 'Theories that diseases are caused by mental states and can be cured by will power are always an index of how much is not understood about the physical terrain of a disease'" (89). "It was not a psychic wound caused by my anger, my inability to accept my bounty. It was not my fault. Now I could accept the biological fact that I'd simply had bad luck" (124). "When someone in your social circle becomes so melancholy that they stop moving, it is your duty as a human being to go find them. It is not enough to seek medical attention. It is not enough to ask them how they are feeling. You must go where they are and get them. It is up to all of us to save Frances. It is part of the social contract" (148). "And so I've grown to love the syllables in the word maybe. Today my head is full of maybes. Maybe healing is not linear. Maybe there is no one health care savior but many patient practitioners. Maybe the long haul is longer than anticipated. Maybe a nap is in order. Maybe writing down your story helps. Maybe, outside your immediate field of vision, someone down the block is learning how to stand on one leg again; someone is learning to smile again; someone is learning to breathe again; and someone is relearning their place on this earth with a new asymmetry they could never have foretold and something you can only imagine...And maybe these asymmetries are not equal in terms of how suffering is doled out. And maybe false equivalencies are just as bad as deciding not to even try to imagine another person's pain. And maybe we are all seeking a cure of some kind" (218). "It's not a tragedy, she said, but it must be disappointing" (222). "May what appears to be broken, actually be in the midst of an untold, unforeseeable healing" (227).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    At last, with this book, I have finally discovered firsthand the astute wit and wry humor of gifted young playwright and essayist Sarah Ruhl, who here carries us along with her on her frequently heartbreaking ten-year journey with the facial condition known as Bell's palsy. On the heels of giving birth to premature twin babies--a boy and girl--Ms. Ruhl suddenly suffered a mysterious paralysis on the left half of her face, followed by the unwelcome realization after diagnosis that she would defy At last, with this book, I have finally discovered firsthand the astute wit and wry humor of gifted young playwright and essayist Sarah Ruhl, who here carries us along with her on her frequently heartbreaking ten-year journey with the facial condition known as Bell's palsy. On the heels of giving birth to premature twin babies--a boy and girl--Ms. Ruhl suddenly suffered a mysterious paralysis on the left half of her face, followed by the unwelcome realization after diagnosis that she would defy the statistical odds and NOT recover in a matter of a few months. An exhausted mom of three, career woman, and loving wife, Ms. Ruhl had to find her way around this literally in-your-face roadblock to effective communication (and self-esteem) with one desperate trip after another to every sort of medical practitioner across the spectrum, with surprisingly paltry result. Her sense of humor and the support of her husband, children, and friends proved key to seeing the light at the end of this twisted tunnel. (Don't call it a tragedy, she insists.) Along the way, the author scatters sage advice for friends and family members of those enduring such griefs; for one, I now realize that "I can't imagine. . ." is not the sensitive sentiment such souls hunger for: rather, "I can only imagine. . ." lends comfort and support. A reflective, moving, real-life ode to a face and the all the raw emotions, seen and unseen, behind it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Claire Denning

    This book was easily one of my favorites that I've read this year. I'm not normally a fan of nonfiction, but Ruhl's poetic prose, each line laced with meaning and metaphor, often had me forgetting that this wasn't a meticulously crafted and controlled work of fiction. There was so much depth and meaning to this story about illness, but for me, the pieces that really hit home was the exploration of womanhood through the lens of family. This story was such an interesting exploration of the roles w This book was easily one of my favorites that I've read this year. I'm not normally a fan of nonfiction, but Ruhl's poetic prose, each line laced with meaning and metaphor, often had me forgetting that this wasn't a meticulously crafted and controlled work of fiction. There was so much depth and meaning to this story about illness, but for me, the pieces that really hit home was the exploration of womanhood through the lens of family. This story was such an interesting exploration of the roles we play as both daughter and mother, the things these roles take from us, and the immeasurable bounty given back to us through these roles as well. Furthermore, Ruhl sprinkles the story with images that really drive home the reality of the tale she is telling. At the end of the novel she includes a series of portraits of her practicing her smile for her physical therapist that are just breathtaking - there is a beauty in them that comes from the hard-won quality of that smile. Overall, I give this book five stars and would rank it higher if that was possible!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    4.5 What is in a face? A smile? And non-verbal greeting and what happens when you can no longer do that? This book was another great listen and I adore the author. Learning to live with our limitations when something out of control happens is so powerful.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...