Reflections on Identity and Illness, Persistence and Hope

by | Jan 2022

Playwright Sarah Ruhl and her husband, Tony Charuvastra, are taken by surprise when they learn that they are expecting twins—and when serious complications develop, Ruhl must rest in bed for months. After the babies are safely delivered, it seems that the hard part is over. But for Ruhl, it has only just begun. She develops Bell’s palsy, a facial paralysis on one side of her face. Only in rare cases does Bell’s palsy not disappear within a few weeks to a few months. Ruhl’s case was rare. In Smile: The Story of a Face, Ruhl writes of her 10-year journey of living without the ability to smile. She learns to eat again and to manually close her eyelids to protect her eyes. Life—with a husband and family, plays in production, a teaching career and other health crises—goes on. The details of illness and its far-reaching consequences are beautifully rendered in this memoir. With grace and humor, Ruhl describes the passion of her persistence to find help for her face. This is a book of gratitude—a perfect read for the new year.

Contributed by Maureen Millea Smith, a librarian at the Edina Library and a Minnesota Book Award-winning novelist.


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