* A People Best Book of the Year * Time and The Washington Post’s Most Anticipated List * Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence *
From the MacArthur genius, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, and playwright, this “captivating, insightful memoir” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) is “a beautiful meditation on identity and how we see ourselves” (Real Simple).
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 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, profound, 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.
An intimate and “stunning” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) examination of loss and reconciliation, “Ruhl reminds us that a smile is not just a smile but a vital form of communication, of bonding, of what makes us human” (The Washington Post). Brimming with insight, humility, and levity, Smile is a triumph by one of America’s leading playwrights.
Sarah Ruhl is a playwright, essayist, and poet. Her fifteen plays include In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play), The Clean House, and Eurydice. She has been a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Tony Award nominee, and the recipient of the MacArthur “genius” Fellowship. Her plays have been produced on- and off-Broadway, around the country, internationally, and have been translated into many languages. Her book 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write was a New York Times Notable Book. Her other books include Letters from Max, with Max Ritvo, and 44 Poems for You. She has received the Steinberg Playwright Award, the Samuel French Award, the Feminist Press Under 40 Award, the National Theater Conference Person of the Year Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a Whiting Award, a Lily Award, and a PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for mid-career playwrights. She teaches at the Yale School of Drama, and she lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Tony Charuvastra, who is a child psychiatrist, and their three children. You can read more about her work at SarahRuhlPlaywright.com.