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.
At the height of her career, with her first play opening on Broadway, and a happily married mother of three, Sarah Ruhl had just survived a high-risk twins pregnancy when she discovered the left side of her face completely paralyzed. She is assured that ninety percent of Bell’s palsy patients see spontaneous improvement and experience a full recovery. Like Ruhl’s own mother. Like Angelina Jolie. 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 tiny 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.